My parish, Holy Name of
Jesus, distributes food every other Saturday out of the rectory basement.
We give food to anyone who shows up and says there is a need. There are
about 60 people who periodically come to our Food Pantry, but on any given
Saturday we usually average around 40 people. Much of the food we receive
comes from parishioners; however, local
schools have food drives that contribute greatly to the food we have
available. Most of these food drives are
straight-forward and involve the school advertising the drive and then
collecting the food from the children and parents over a period of time. Some
teachers in the early grades, including Pre-K and K, visit the food pantry with
their students and have them place a food item in our storage cabinets. For
these teachers, it is never too early to teach a child the importance of
sharing and that others may need help.
Teachers in grades 3, 4, and 5 are able to use a food pantry as a multiple purpose educational tool. The process begins when the teacher gives the students the grocery store’s advertising that shows food items. Each student is instructed to choose certain non-perishable food items from the paper and to list the item and its price on a piece of paper. They are instructed to keep the total cost close to but under a certain amount, say $10.00. Each student is given that amount of money by the teacher from a donated fund raising source. Non-perishable items needed and then distributed at our Food Pantry include:
(a) can of tuna or a can of chicken or a jar of peanut butter,
(b) box of pasta or a box of rice,
(c) jar or can of pasta sauce,
(d) can of vegetables and a can of beans,
(e) can of soup and a can of fruit,
(f) box of cereal,
(g) pop-open cans of spaghetti and meatballs and raviolis, pop-open cans of vegetables and fruit for the homeless,
(h) cans of condensed milk and various juices,
(i) boxes of Jell-O and baking goods.
This teaching exercise requires the student to do reading, writing, and arithmetic. Once each student’s list has been verified by the teacher, the class consolidates the lists to avoid excessive duplication and to assure that each of the major items needed by the pantry is covered. The class then goes shopping and each student finds and buys the items on his list and pays for it at the check out counter, returning the excess money to the teacher. The class then brings their bags of food to the Pantry where the food is stored in cabinets, and there is a discussion of how it will be distributed to those who are in need. This teaching exercise involves practical shopping skills such as choosing listed items off a grocery shelf, paying for them, and collecting change. Once the food has been delivered to the Pantry by the students, their social awareness of helping others has been awakened. It is a joy to talk to and answer the questions of these students as they visit an active food pantry.
Our church does not have the wherewithal to keep refrigerated items so it is only non-perishable items that are distributed. However, in the spring and summer parish girl scouts plant fruits and vegetables, which when harvested are given out at the Pantry. Additionally, monetary donations from parishioners and grants from charitable foundations distributed through the Diocese are used to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, which enhance our distributions throughout the year. Our pantry is open to the community and to anyone who is in need – we do not exclude anyone who shows up and asks for food. Many individuals have limited incomes, and they should not have to decide between eating three meals every day and the other ordinary activities of daily living. Our food pantry provides some small assistance to those in need. Many of our volunteers are motivated by the Gospel and do their service in the name of Jesus, while some are humanists who recognize the ethical truth of the Golden Rule and consider helping those in need a social imperative.
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