According to Feeding America, one in six children under the age of 18 in the six southern counties of New Jersey, which make up the Camden Diocese, is food insecure, meaning they never know when their next meal is coming.
On March 1, schools and parishes came together to help these children and their families in the Diocese of Camden’s second annual FaithFULL one-day food drive.
From 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m., cans, boxes and bags of food were dropped off at five different locations.
The Community Foodbank of New Jersey in Egg Harbor Township, and the Food Bank of South Jersey in Pennsauken Township, ultimately collected the donated goods for distribution.
Three parishes served as satellite drop-off locations before being sent off to one of the food banks: St. Agnes Parish, Our Lady of Hope Church in Blackwood, Padre Pio Parish, Our Lady of Pompeii Church in Vineland, and the Catholic Community of the Holy Spirit, Holy Name of Jesus Church, Mullica Hill.
In Mullica Hill, Bishop Dennis Sullivan blessed the food before its departure and helped load up the truck.
The diocesan-wide event made “a sizable impact” on bringing relief for the hungry in South Jersey, said Michael Jordan Laskey, director of Life and Justice for the Diocese of Camden.
Parishes partner year-round with food banks, and stock food pantries, to help the needy, but “this time of year is a crucial one,” Laskey said.
The drive takes place “after the holiday season,” when so many donations come in, but then they drop off after the New Year, he said.
“Still, cupboards are bare, and we want to fill that need.”
“We value our partnerships with the food banks, and we want to affirm parishes in their continuing work” with them, Laskey said.
FaithFULL is a “short-term response” to food insecurity, he stated, saying that he hopes “families, parishes, and schools take the next step,” which include developing personal relationships with the needy, and discovering ways to create systemic change in society to overcome poverty, in “doing what we can as a society to help families provide.”
Anna O’Toole, president of the St. Vincent de Paul Society at Our Lady of Hope, coordinated her parish’s FaithFULL efforts. The weekend before the event, she spoke at Masses and handed out grocery bags, with shopping lists attached, to parishioners. Last Sunday, a truck was filled up and sent to the Food Bank of South Jersey. The next day, a truck picked up the overrun at the parish, and made another trip to the food bank.
“I’m glad we’re able to help,” she said, adding that she hopes that in the near future, “fewer and fewer people will need our help.”
The youth group at St. Gianna Beretta Molla Parish, St. Bernadette Church in Northfield also assembled and distributed grocery bags to Mass-goers the week before FaithFULL. The youth then collected the bags and stored them in the church before nine of the youth went with the donations to the Egg Harbor Food Bank and helped organize everything received.
“The youth saw the impact of the whole event and the bigger picture” when they saw all the food collected at the food bank from theirs and other parishes, said Jeff Young, parish youth minister. “They know their responsibility to explain the importance of FaithFULL back at the youth group, and in their schools and homes,” he said.