This year alone, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington’s St. Lucy Food Project is on the way to distribute over one million pounds of food to serve our hungry neighbors. Catholic Charities believes that in our diocese, which includes some of the wealthiest counties in the nation, it is unacceptable that we have brothers and sisters who are food insecure. There are many partners of Catholic Charities who agree: our parishes, Knights of Columbus, individuals, volunteers.
We have been feeding the hungry for decades out of our 200-year-old cellar at Christ House in Alexandria, where we store donated nonperishable food items. Initially, food was distributed to those who came to our door who were hungry. However, we wanted to extend our reach to help those in need in other areas of the diocese. Hunger in the rural counties is a serious problem, where food insecurity runs as high as 16% of the population. These are areas plagued by high unemployment and where many of the resident seniors are trying to get by solely on their social security income. There are also fewer social service providers and resources for the poor in these areas.
We created Christ House on Wheels (CHOW) and began delivering food out of the Christ House cellar to area pantries and to parishes in the diocese that have food pantries to support their efforts and prevent them from running out of supplies. Much of this work was performed by the Knights of Columbus, men of charity who were ready, willing and able to bring food from Alexandria to as far as Front Royal and beyond. We also opened additional food pantries in Leesburg and Front Royal, which, like Christ House, provides food directly to individuals in need.
Through our Parish Liaison Network, we called upon our parishes to help us meet the need throughout the diocese. We established Fall Harvest, an annual food collection. The response from the parishes was overwhelming, and Fall Harvest expanded into multiple food drives per parish. Soon, the old cellar at Christ House could no longer store enough food to match the generosity of the parishes and the needs of the communities.
In 2014, a generous donor gave us a sacrificial donation so we could start the St. Lucy Food Project (St. Lucy was a favorite saint of this donor and we thought the St. Lucy charism of light and serving the poor described this apostolate aptly). With this large donation, we opened a 6,000 sq. foot warehouse centrally located in Manassas near the very generous parishes of All Saints and Holy Trinity (Gainesville). The St. Lucy Project relies heavily on volunteers from these parishes and others. Soon thereafter St. John Neumann in Reston helped us purchase a refrigerated truck so we could collect fresh food, milk, eggs and vegetables and bring these healthy foods to the poor. Thereafter three parishes in Alexandria, Good Shepherd, St. Louis and the Basilica of St. Mary, collectively purchased another refrigerated truck so we could collect and distribute even more food.
Before you knew it we were distributing nearly 1,000,000 lbs of food throughout the diocese. Now, in 2018, we are adding commercial refrigeration in the warehouse in Manassas so we can continue to provide nutritious, fresh, healthy foods. Refrigeration isn’t cheap, but it is a critical investment in the health of those we serve. So St. Lucy is making a large cold step, and we gratefully ask for your financial support to allow us to keep transforming the lives of our hungry neighbors. If you would like to volunteer at our St. Lucy warehouse or just come by and tour the facility, please contact us at 703-479-2975. God bless you, and may St. Lucy always pray for us.
Below the refrigeration unit is being installed in our St. Lucy Food Project Warehouse: