Catholic Charities Tops Million Meal Mark in ‘Season of Urgency’

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Cardinal Dolan offered a blessing and helped to distribute bags of food during a special archdiocesan Catholic Charities food pantry gathering in the Bronx. Organizers determined that the 2,400 meals given out included the 1 millionth meal distributed by Catholic Charities during the first six months of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The morning event took place Sept. 23 at the Catholic Charities Community Services Bronx Food Hub and Pantry, located on East 152nd Street. Organizers and volunteers distributed 200 bags of food. They said 1 million meals distributed between March and September was more than double the number provided during the same period in previous years.

“We are grateful for this occasion to celebrate 1 million meals being given out to God’s children here throughout the archdiocese of New York,” said Cardinal Dolan in his remarks. 

“They (Catholic Charities) have risen to the occasion in a season of urgency, with an amazing effectiveness. And so I congratulate our beloved Catholic Charities staff.”

He also expressed gratitude to program benefactors. “Jesus told us not to blow a trumpet in front of the good works that we do,” the cardinal said, noting that “what we’re doing is praising God for the generosity that He has inspired in so many of our benefactors and so many of our workers. And praising God, yes, for the people we’re privileged to serve. We see in them the spark of the Divine. We see them as a child of God who deserves dignity and respect.”

In his blessing, the cardinal prayed, “We thank you, Lord, for the generosity you’ve inspired in this magnificent food distribution program…We obey the words of your Son: when I was hungry, you fed me.” 

As for those who are served, the cardinal asked the Lord, “Bless them all.”

The significant distribution increase was due in large part to pop-up food pantries and additional distributions throughout Manhattan and the Bronx responding to the increased need stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. Pop-up pantries on Staten Island and the Lower Hudson Valley were also part of Catholic Charities food distribution. Also given out Sept. 23 was informational material on the census and SNAP benefits. 

Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of archdiocesan Catholic Charities, gratefully noted the assistance of generous donors and program partners, such as Goya and Fresh Direct.

“Thank you to so many people who have helped us to distribute over a million meals to hungry New Yorkers,” Msgr. Sullivan said. “This tragic pandemic has enabled us to deepen our relationship with the parishes and the Catholic schools of the archdiocese.

“This pandemic clearly has raised up the need for food. And it has raised up the need for us to be very vigilant, so that people can keep their homes, their apartments.” 

He said Catholic Charities continues to assist people so “they can have the resources to pay the rent...We all know about the (state eviction) moratorium; but that moratorium is going to end, even if it gets extended a little bit more.”

Joyful sentiments over the milestone were also expressed by Father Eric Cruz, Bronx regional director of Catholic Charities, and Dianne Johnson, director of archdiocesan Catholic Charities Community Outreach Services. Auxiliary Bishop Edmund Whalen was present as well.

Gloria Robinson, 55, of the Bronx, was one of those who received food. “I would say thank you. I appreciate it. It’s a blessing,” she told Catholic New York while waiting in line, in expressing her message to donors, organizers and volunteers. 

“It’s been rough, but I’m grateful for when I get the food. It helps a whole lot. It really does,” added Ms. Robinson, who is on disability and is a single mother of eight, the three youngest still at home. 

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