One day, hundreds of volunteers and more than 75,000 pounds of food

One day, hundreds of volunteers  and more than 75,000 pounds of food

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Left: Sam and Nick Simila, youth group members of Incarnation Parish, Mantua, get ready to help load a truck with donated food after Mass on Feb. 23, the day of the faithFULL food drive. Right photo, worshippers carry bags of food from the church to the truck. Parishes throughout the Diocese of Camden participated in the initiative by collecting donations for local food pantries.

Photos above by James A. McBride

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Left: Volunteers unload a truck with donations from Our Lady of Sorrows Parish, Linwood, at the Community Food Bank in Egg Harbor Township. Right photo, volunteers sort donations at the food bank.

Photos above by Alan M. Dumoff

On Sunday, Feb. 23, parishes and schools in the Camden Diocese collected more than 75,000 pounds of canned food items for the needy.
The one-day faithFULL food drive initiative saw individuals in the six counties of the diocese, at the request of Bishop Dennis Sullivan, bring canned items such as tuna fish, beans, fruit, soup and chili, to either the Food Bank of South Jersey in Pennsauken or the Community Food Bank of New Jersey. For eight hours, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., trucks and vans filled with donated food drove to the food banks, and volunteers unloaded them.
Bishop Sullivan celebrated Mass at Incarnation Parish in Mantua that morning and spoke of the need to remember the words in the Sunday readings in Leviticus, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and Matthew’s Gospel, “Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
When we help our neighbors, such as donating food to the needy, “we become more holy and like God,” he said during his homily. Afterward, he helped load a U-Haul, donated by the parish’s Knights of Columbus council, with bags of food to be taken to the Food Bank of South Jersey.
Incarnation youth group members helped promote the effort, wearing soup costumes and handing out food drive bags on Feb. 15 for parishioners to fill and bring back the following week. The youth “are always more than willing” to help, youth minister Dave Zarzycki said.
Almost 200 volunteered at the food banks Feb. 23, unloading U-Hauls, cars or vans filled with food and sorting the canned goods.
In some instances, collected food was able to be stored in the parish’s own food pantries. These pounds of food were added to the diocese’s total number which, at press time, was 77,211 pounds.
“We’re happy with the turn out and participation,” said Mike Jordan Laskey, director of Life and Justice Ministries and one of the faithFULL Committee members. It is hoped that the one-day food drive becomes an annual tradition in the
diocese.
“I’m inspired by the generosity of the people of faith and their response to the call to feed the hungry, which demands our constant prayer and action,” he said.
Area Catholic schools such as Bishop Eustace in Pennsauken, and Paul VI in Haddon Township, also contributed. During the Feb. 20 basketball game between the two schools, played at Bishop Eustace’s court, fans of both teams were admitted into the game for a reduced price if they brought in canned goods. On Sunday students brought the items to the food bank.
The drive comes at a time of the year when many food pantries find themselves with empty shelves, while there is still great demand for food.
Sabine Mehnert, community engagement manager at the Food Bank of South Jersey and a faithFULL Committee member, called the day a “generous outpouring. Thank you to everyone who participated.”
“We look forward to this food drive, being bigger and better every year,” she said.
Twenty-five percent of all collected food items will be sent to the Diocese of Camden’s Catholic Charities and its food pantries.

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