During a blessing at a new food hub in the South Bronx, Cardinal Dolan recalled the words of Jesus, who said, “Blessed are the hungry, for they shall be fed.”
“The blessing of Jesus is already here,” said the cardinal outside of Catholic Charities’ South Bronx Community Center at 402 E. 152nd St. on June 23. Charities volunteers, community members, elected officials and local clergy gathered with him.
The location is home to the newly established Catholic Charities Community Services Food Distribution Center that will increase access to fresh produce and nutritious food to people of the Bronx and upper Manhattan. It will do so through a network of community-based, interfaith pantries and soup kitchens.
The hub officially opened with the blessing by Cardinal Dolan. The 1,050-square-foot site can receive and distribute approximately 60,000 pounds of fresh produce and other food each month. That food adds to the nutritional value of more than 90,000 meals.
Goya Foods, the largest Hispanic-owned food company in the United States, has committed to donating 300,000 pounds of food to the hub.
“Goya is proud to partner with Catholic Charities of New York and support the mission of its new Food Distribution Center,” said Bob Unanue, president of Goya Foods. He told CNY that Goya wanted to donate food to the Food Hub in the Bronx because “it is one of the poorest, if not the poorest congressional district in the country.”
This isn’t the first time Goya has partnered with Catholic Charities. In 2014, the company donated 300,000 pounds of food, with a major portion of that going to food pantries and emergency food programs in the archdiocese associated with the “Feeding Our Neighbors” campaign. One-third of that donation went to various Catholic Charities agencies across the United States.
“The Catholic Church will get it where it needs to go—to the needy,” he said.
As for Goya’s donation to the Bronx food hub, Unanue said, “We wanted to give enough because there is a great need. So, we dug into our pockets a little deeper.”
Goya will bring food to the hub on scheduled days during the month.
Father Eric Cruz, regional coordinator in the Bronx with Catholic Charities and pastor of St. John Chrysostom in the Bronx, told CNY that the hub offers more than food to those who enter. He said people also have access to professional case management services. Case managers help families access child care services and English as a Second language classes, find work and learn about the rights of immigrants.
“There is now a place of welcome, compassion, a place where people can find hope in their darkest moment—in the middle of a crisis,” Father Cruz said. “The whole goal is to transform lives. We hope this becomes an oasis where hope and mercy are always encountered.”
Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of archdiocesan Catholic Charities, said, “There is a need for this hub because there continues to be too many hungry New Yorkers. We created this hub to increase availability to nutritious food to food pantries in the Bronx and to those using food pantries.”
Also key, Msgr. Sullivan said, is the hub’s ability to hold refrigerated produce and distribute it to area food pantries.
City Harvest will also provide fresh produce and baked goods, juice and other supermarket items. The Emergency Food Assistance Program and the United Way will provide bulk shipments of food.
The hub extends Catholic Charities’ “Feeding Our Neighbors” program, which includes a network of volunteer-run programs. At the same site, there is also a new Client Choice Food Pantry, which serves 350 families a week.
“We are delighted that interfaith food pantries are collaborating with us. Protestant, Jewish and Muslim organizations as part of that network,” Msgr. Sullivan said.
Pearl Emmanuel, a Catholic Charities volunteer and parishioner of St. Charles Borromeo parish in Harlem, said she is happy to help because “I see the need that people have to be fed.”
As she handed out small plastic bags filled with healthy snacks to people passing by, she said, “There are a lot of needy people. This is giving back to the community, and it’s fulfilling.”