Hunger in Your Diocese: Putting a Face to the Numbers

In keeping with #PovertyAwarenessMonth, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington will present “Hunger in the Diocese and the Catholic Response” to discuss current strategies being implemented to eliminate hunger in our diocese.

By: Sally O’Dwyer, Staff Spotlight

Far too many people in our diocese are food insecure. According to the USDA, food insecurity is defined as having, “limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, or the limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.” Food insecurity across the diocese ranges from 5.2 to 17 percent of the population, depending on the region. Our rural counties are more greatly affected by food insecurity due to higher rates of poverty in these areas, and the fact that these areas tend to be “food deserts.”

St. Lucy project Sister stacks donations

A religious sister stacks donations to the St. Lucy Project, of Catholic Charities.

USDA defines a “food desert” as a part of the country devoid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers. These areas also lack social service agencies and food pantries. Unfortunately, the problem is growing. The 2013 Hunger and Homelessness Survey, conducted by the United States Conference of Mayors, found that the need for emergency food assistance programs continues to rise. When a person does not receive adequate nutrition, they may suffer from serious medical conditions, such as anemia, gastric ulcers, gastrointestinal complaints, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, acute and chronic infectious disease, diabetes and dental problems.

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Mt 25:35).

StLucy_Logo_FINALAt Catholic Charities, we believe that the current situation is unacceptable. The Gospel message resounds with calls to help the poor and to feed the hungry. Christ identified with the poor, the hungry, the disadvantaged, and in Matthew 25:35, He tells us clearly how we treat the hungry is how we treat Him. As His Church, we are called to come together and do what we can to find Him and to find solutions to this problem.

To address the situation, Catholic Charities recently launched the St. Lucy Project to support parishes and food pantries in the diocese. We have a new distribution hub in Manassas and relocated our pantries in Front Royal and Leesburg to better accommodate the demand for food. We are committed to providing healthy food to the poor and have acquired a refrigerated truck to do so. At this time, there are 22 parishes in our diocese that have food outreach programs right on their parish campuses and Catholic Charities is working with these programs, distributing food to regional and rural food pantries, connecting with available food resources, and educating the community about this problem.

If you would like to learn more about solutions Catholic Charities is implementing to end hunger, please join us. If you would like to meet others who are addressing this problem or perhaps even volunteer, please attend!

In keeping with Poverty Awareness Month, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington will present “Hunger in the Diocese and the Catholic Response,” on January 28, at Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church, to discuss current strategies being implemented to eliminate hunger in our diocese.  All who are concerned about this problem are encouraged to attend. It’s free and open to the public.

Hunger and the Catholic Response

Our Lady of Good Counsel Church

8601 Wolftrap Road

Vienna, VA 22182

January 28

10 a.m. to noon


Staff Spotlight is — in an ongoing effort to get a range of content on Encourage & Teach — content from staff members within the Diocese of Arlington from contributors who do not write as a part of their day-to-day job.

Sally O’Dwyer holds a Master’s Degree from The Monterey Institute of International Policy Studies. She is the Director of Volunteers for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington.

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