They are still taking stock of all the foodstuffs and counting the financial donations to the weeklong, archdiocese-wide Feeding Our Neighbors Campaign that wrapped up Jan. 29. But indications are that the archdiocese’s first campaign to restock hard-pressed food pantries and soup kitchens with enough food to see them through the rest of the winter was a remarkable success.
“We are incredibly enthused by the positive response that we have received universally from our Catholic parishes and schools,” said Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of archdiocesan Catholic Charities. “Catholics throughout the New York metropolitan area embraced the Feeding Our Neighbor Campaign with enthusiasm, with compassion and with generosity—a reaction, which was not surprising, yet at the same time incredibly heartening.”
Archbishop Dolan launched the campaign during Thanksgiving week, calling on every Catholic institution in the archdiocese—parishes, schools, charitable institutions and other organizations—to join together from Sunday to Sunday, Jan. 22 to 29, to increase the food supply available to their struggling neighbors through a collection of food goods or money to stock depleted cupboards. Food programs often see a drop-off in donations in the months following Christmas and this year, many programs were struggling because of the continuing economic malaise. Large food boxes were located in prominent areas in churches, schools and other Catholic facilities throughout the sprawling 10-county archdiocese.
“Our preliminary tallies and estimates indicate that through money and food, we surpassed the goal of trying to provide 500,000 additional meals to food pantries,” Msgr. Sullivan explained. “We already have tallied close to 50,000 pounds of food collected and over $100,000 of contributions. And we know there’s a whole lot more there. So, we’re estimating a little bit, but we believe the Catholic people of the Archdiocese of New York, have hit the goal.”
Msgr. Sullivan pointed to one particularly generous donation of $25,000 the campaign received after the donor read the article announcing the campaign in the Jan. 12 edition of Catholic New York. He also said that the response of schools throughout the archdiocese was especially gratifying.
“The schools were magnificent, especially I believe it was Regina Coeli School in Hyde Park. That one school alone collected more than 1,300 pounds of food,” he noted.
It was the first time the archdiocese has done such an ambitious campaign and the logistical obstacles were formidable. The archdiocese stretches from the southern tip of Staten Island all the way north to the edges of Sullivan and over to Dutchess counties and comprises both urban and rural communities.
“Clearly, we had never done this before in trying to get 400 parishes and 200-plus schools on board. It was quite a challenge,” said Luz Tavarez-Salazar, who coordinated the campaign for Catholic Charities. “We had great people supporting us. The Education Department was just amazing. Also some of our regional directors in the Hudson Valley really helped to coordinate things locally.”
The food and money collected will go not just to Catholic institutions, but also to ecumenical or civic food pantries and organizations that provide sustenance to the needy, including the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley and the Coalition for the Homeless.
“Our faith tells us that what we do for those most in need is what we do for Jesus himself,” explained Msgr. Sullivan. “A hungry child, a hungry senior should not be part of the landscape of New York. And providing our people with the opportunity to do their share is just a natural outflow from their faith and deep concern.”