Mary Woods is a resident of the tiny community of Peebles in Adams County, OH. She and her husband are disabled. They also have custody of their 13 year old grandson. Mary is on a fixed income. She receives $180 every month in Social Security. No matter how thrifty she tries to be, she is not able to make ends meet. “A month is a long time,” she says and admits that towards the end she runs out of pretty much everything.
Mary is a regular visitor to the local food pantries, especially the ones that are organized by Catholic Charities Southwestern Ohio in collaboration with the Freestore Foodbank. Her access is dependent on whether she can find someone to share the burden of paying for gas to get there and she is always borrowing money or trying to hitch a ride. Mary is very grateful for the program. “If it were not for the food pantries, we would not eat much,” she says. With a 13 year old and growing grandson at home, she appreciates the nutritious foods such as meat and eggs that are offered at the Catholic Charities’ mobile pantries and counts that as a unique feature that sets them apart from others. Scott Stephens, Director of Parish Outreach at Catholic Charities comments, “This is all part of our effort to feed the flock.”
Catholic Charities Southwestern Ohio has served the Archdiocese of Cincinnati for over a hundred years. With the mission to “serve, enlighten and empower” the poor and the vulnerable in society, Catholic Charities collaborates with the Freestore Foodbank to make healthy and nutritious food accessible to people who live in food deserts in rural parts of Ohio. Their “Food for All” campaign to end hunger by 2025 was born out of the message from Pope Francis to “go out and meet others where they really are” during his visit to the United States in September 2015. Through their partnership with the Freestore Foodbank, Catholic Charities currently operates 5 mobile pantries a month in 5 counties in southwest Ohio –Clermont, Clinton, Highland, Adams and Brown.
Freestore Foodbank and Catholic Charities of Southwestern Ohio partner to provide Power Packs to students at three schools in Cincinnati – St. Clement, St. Martin of Tours and Sts. Peter and Paul Academy. Power Packs are small packs of food that are sent home with school children in order to ensure that they have something to eat over the weekend. They are in the process of opening school pantries as well this month in all three schools. The pantries will be open once a month and are expected to serve close to 350 families in total. “The school pantries will carry shelf-stable food – so right now it’ll be mostly boxes and cans. One of the schools has a freezer and we are hoping to be able to make use of it in the near future,” adds Stephens.
Since last February, Catholic Charities has worked with the Freestore Foodbank to serve 140,000 meals to 6,803 families including kids, retirees and seniors. Catholic Charities greatly values the opportunity to collaborate. Dan Sarell, Director of Mission Advancement remarks, “The partnership with the Freestore Foodbank helps us pick better sites and offer more choices of food at our pantries.” It is through cooperative efforts that food and access to it, gives folks like Mary Woods and her family, a chance, a chance to thrive.