Innovation, Not Cancellation, Marks 2020 Bread of Life Drive on Staten Island


With food insecurity intensified by the coronavirus, Joe Delaney said canceling this year’s Bread of Life food drive on Staten Island “was not an option.”

Many of the people now heading to food pantries run by Catholic Charities and individual parishes “have never gone to food pantries before in their lives,” Delaney said.

“They have lost their jobs,” he said. “We’ve upped our game because of the greater demand for food.”

Delaney, the executive director of the annual drive run by the University of Notre Dame Alumni Club of Staten Island, and other volunteers infused their can-do spirit with innovative methods to accomplish their goal.

With traditional support from many Catholic schools and parishes on the island hindered by the virus, Delaney and fellow volunteers had to put a new plan in place for the drive, which each year collects tens of thousands of food items for nonprofit organizations on Staten Island.

One of the changes meant pushing up the drive’s start date. At St. Joseph by-the-Sea High School, Father John McCarthy, a chaplain and religion teacher, coordinated the school’s drive. A total of 500 bags of food, including some 2,000 items, were collected on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 26, and delivered to the Catholic Charities food pantry on Anderson Avenue, Delaney told CNY.

The Bread of Life drive also facilitated food donations, including the ones from Borough Hall on Staten Island to Catholic Charities to parish pantries at St. Michael-St. Clement, Our Lady of Good Counsel, SS. Peter and Paul and Assumption, and Our Lady of Mount Carmel-St. Benedicta and St. Mary of the Assumption.

Last weekend, Our Lady of Pity parish mounted a Drive-by and Drop collection in the church parking lot, which netted 96 cartons of food for Catholic Charities. Deacon Michael Venditto and his wife, Susan, and their son, James, coordinated the collection. Mrs. Venditto is the coordinator for the Bread of Life food drive at Our Lady of Pity.

“The Bread of Life drive was scheduled in our parish for the weekend of March 28-29,” Deacon Venditto said. “But with the tremendous need at the local food pantries, we could not allow the food drive to become another casualty of the virus.”

Along with collecting food, the Notre Dame Alumni Club of Staten Island has also raised a substantial amount of money—$65,000 as of May 15, according to Delaney—to be given to the 25 nonprofit organizations on Staten Island that normally receive food from the Bread of Life drive. The funds will be distributed so the organizations can purchase food or gift cards for those they assist.

The money, raised online and via checks, from local supporters and others in the Notre Dame club network across the country, is about two-thirds of the club’s $100,000 goal. The collection will continue until the end of May. 

The Notre Dame Alumni Club of Staten Island was recently honored as an Outstanding Club of the Notre Dame Alumni Association for 2019.

The Bread of Life food drive was one of the two primary citations for the honor.

The other was the club’s support for the 2019 pro-life initiatives articulated by Cardinal Dolan, for which it received a Lennon Life Prize grant.

The five-point plan includes:

• Support for Cross Road Foundation Pregnancy Resource Center on Staten Island.

• Support for Good Counsel Home for single mothers on Staten Island.

• Expand Notre Dame Bread of Life Food Drive to Catholic parishes on Staten Island’s North Shore that support an immigrant population.

• Support Sunrise Day Camp for children with cancer.

Support Staten Island Vicariate Respect for Life.

“It tied us to what our cardinal archbishop asked us to do for respecting life across the archdiocese,” Delaney said.