“Lord when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?” -Matthew 25:35

More than 236,000 people (equivalent to about three sell-out games for the Washington Redskins) in our diocese are in need of food, according to Feeding America.

More than 236,000 people (equivalent to about three sell-out games for the Washington Redskins) in our diocese are in need of food, according to Feeding America.

Meet Sandra (name changed to retain anonymity). She’s a single mom, a petite lady with a big smile. She’s a native Virginian and works as a nurse’s assistant. She might as well be your neighbor, or mine.

She’s also the face of hunger.

Her smile hides the fact that she skips dinner so her daughter—a freshman cheerleader at the local high school—doesn’t have to.

Sandra’s income doesn’t always last the whole month. She tries to protect her daughter from her financial struggles because she’s embarrassed and ashamed. When extra expenses come up, Sandra skips dinner a couple nights a week—just to provide for her family.

She shouldn’t have to make that choice. Now, she doesn’t have to.

Sandra visits a Catholic Charities’ food pantry. Twice a month she comes to The St. Lucy Project food pantry in Front Royal, picking out cereal, yogurt, frozen meats, fruits and vegetables for her family. Can you imagine the relief she feels walking out of the pantry with bags of fresh, nutritious groceries for free?

This fall we launched The St. Lucy Project (formerly known as CHOW) as our re-energized food distribution program. We now have one central hub in Manassas and three walk-in pantries in Alexandria, Front Royal and Leesburg. We also deliver food to more than 45 parish pantries and ecumenical partners.

I met Sandra when I visited the Front Royal pantry last month. Almost 100 families received fresh, nutritious groceries that day. You could hear sounds of rattling shopping carts and rustling grocery bags and humming freezers. But you could also hear caring words and friendly banter and offers to provide help.

I realized that it wasn’t just a pantry. I was amidst an extended family.

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