Feeding the Hungry
by Bill Bueche, C.Ss.R.
I finally asked Pedro how he could continue to spend his hard-earned savings to help feed the neighborhood. Wasn’t he using up all their savings? Pedro answered simply, “Yes. But the people are in need. God will take care of us.”
Shortly after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of our parish families, the Martinez clan, grew concerned about their neighbors. Many people were out of work, and many more would lose their jobs in the coming months. Maria and Perla, daughters of Pedro and Olga Martinez, decided to help them in the way they could: open their own food pantry right across the street from the church. The twenty-something ladies placed a table on the sidewalk in front of their house and filled it with extra canned and dry goods from their own pantry. They sat there day after day, giving food away to people in need as they came by.
Olga soon joined her daughters’ seemingly quixotic quest. When surplus food in their pantry ran out, they started to give away everything stored in their pantry. Pedro realized that the women were determined to continue sharing the family’s food, so he began to use the family’s savings to buy more food. Other neighbors noticed their charity and began donating small quantities of food. I finally asked Pedro how he could continue to spend his hard-earned savings to help feed the neighborhood. Wasn’t he using up all their savings? Pedro answered simply, “Yes. But the people are in need. God will take care of us.”
The numbers of those who could not feed their own families kept increasing, and the Martinez family needed help, so I created the “Feed the Hungry” fund for this charitable work. The parish collected parishioner donations, which were allocated to this food pantry project. Holy Ghost parishioners responded immediately and generously, and the result was incredible! The fund soon had $25,000 to help feed families in the neighborhood. At about this same time, Pedro decided to use his two-stall garage for this work of mercy. He also recruited other family members (specifically grandma and grandpa) to help with re-packaging food bought in bulk and distributing it to the needy.
At the height of the pandemic, the food pantry was open two days a week. Every week, approximately 400 families received a bag of groceries which contained dry goods, canned goods, fresh vegetables, and eggs. Extra meat was added to packages at Thanksgiving and Christmas to ensure special holiday feasts.
The “Feed the Hungry” fund amassed $75,000, but now every penny has been spent to buy food as cheaply as possible. We spend about $1,500 every week, though now a little more with inflation. I often accompany Pedro to Sam’s Club and other stores to purchase food in bulk. Although we thought this project would begin to phase out after the pandemic dissipated, that has not happened. On the contrary, some people are finding it more difficult than ever to put food on the table because of increasing inflation and the current economy. Some people have gone back to work, but many more are losing their jobs and are in financial jeopardy. Many still do not have enough money for food, and they fear losing their apartments. Once again, I am appealing to parishioners for donations to the “Feed the Hungry” fund, and trust that they will respond generously.