A hungry crowd gathered in a rural setting with no immediate food available to feed 5,000 men and many women and children. Jesus directed the disciples to “feed them yourself” and the disciples tried by finding five barley loaves and a few fish. That was inadequate but it was all they had so they went with it. The disciples listened and believed. After a blessing the food was distributed but instead of feeding five to 10 people, it fed them all with the remnants collected in baskets of food far exceeding the original limited amount put forth by the disciples. (Mathew 14:15-21)
Every week, teams of volunteers converge on at rural community centers east of Cincinnati where hunger is abundance and food is in short supply. These areas, also known as food deserts, are where people live without convenient access to healthy food choices. Like the disciples who set out to feed the 5,000, Catholic Charities has set out with its Food for All Program. Twenty to 30 volunteers gather in Bethel, Blanchester, Hillsboro, Ripley West Union and beginning soon Cincinnati to unload pallets of food. They assemble tables and set up the fresh produce, frozen meat and dry goods. While the set up is occurring their neighbors gather to fill the cupboard with few days of healthy food for their families. With smiles all around, the process is complete by early afternoon and the volunteers share a simple meal that is provided.
Pope Francis initiated Food for All by pointing out that there is sufficient food but dysfunctional distribution and sharing. The Catholic Charities version of Food for All partnered with the Freestore Foodbank and shared 202,722 meals during the first half of this year. With nearly 200,000 people struggling with food insecurity in the areas served, it is through God’s grace manifested in the kindness of volunteers and donors.
In the same Spirit, Food for All is tackling childhood hunger by providing food pantries at schools, and weekend food power packs to students who would otherwise go hungry. Counseling service for children augments the hunger reduction program. The goal is to provide stability and guidance to lift children and their families out of poverty. School and community volunteers from St. Clement, St. Martin of Tours and Sts. Peter and Paul Schools to graciously serve their neighbors.
With one out of every two children in Cincinnati living in poverty and food insecurity as high as 18% in rural areas, it’s too easy to feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem. Instead, during Hunger Action Month in September, I encourage you to reflect on what you have to share. Like the disciples in the parable, just go with what you have at hand even at first analysis it is insufficient. A beginning is mostly what counts and faith will fill the gap.