Wednesday, 19 September 2012 14:00
By Cynthia Colbert and Scott Carter
Most of us don’t spend much time thinking about the phrase “give us this day our daily bread” when we pray an Our Father. We have the love of family and the comfort and support of our church. We have a bed to sleep in and enough food to eat – anytime we feel hungry.
But hunger is something that thousands of children and families in our diocese grapple with on a daily basis.
Feeding the hungry is an important work of mercy and of stewardship, and as Jesus taught us in Matthew 25, when we serve the less fortunate, we are serving Christ, who identifies himself with those in need.
In February of this year, we relocated our Wichita-based food pantry to 2825 S. Hillside, and together with The Lord’s Diner and Guadalupe Clinic, our outreach center in the south-side neighborhood is reaching more low-income and low-resourced individuals and families than ever before. Just consider the food pantry statistics from February to June of this year compared to the same time last year. This year we served an additional 208 people, an increase of almost 25 percent.
We have also renamed our food pantry. You might ask, well, isn’t “food pantry” pretty descriptive of the ministry? Yes…and no. As we prayerfully pondered the topic, we considered many program names, but somehow, Our Daily Bread Food Pantry, kept surfacing. Why? Because we believe that the name articulates our ministry approach to provide for those in need and meet their daily needs, starting with one of the most basic, to provide food that maintains and supports the health and nutrition needs of women, children, seniors and families on a daily basis.
In order to do this in the best way possible, we decided to design the new pantry around a full client-choice model. What does this mean? Basically, instead of merely being given bags of pre-packed food, each client is able to shop for foods their family would most enjoy, just like at a grocery store. This more greatly respects the dignity of each person to make their own choices and also the uniqueness of each family that walks through our doors.
To assist our families in their shopping, we have volunteers to walk through the process with them and act as a personal shopping assistant. This has proven to be another positive aspect of the new pantry design, as both our volunteers and our clients attest to the increased amount of interaction they experience.
“One of the benefits of working at the pantry is being able to see the impact we have on families,” said Scott Carter, director of the pantry. “A number of clients express their struggles in making ends meet, whether on a continual basics or because of extreme circumstances such as a loss of job or unexpected bills. They are really grateful for the assistance we give them.”
Carter began working at Catholic Charities in response to the needs he witnessed around town.
“I wanted to devote some of my time and abilities to those less fortunate than myself, knowing that Christ calls us to have compassion on every person,” he said. “What I have learned is that this is truly God’s work first, and just as he calls us, he wants us to turn to him throughout in order to accomplish it. That’s why I like the new name so much, not only does it speak to our clients’ needs, but also the blessings God pours out on us to share with others.”
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta said, “I never look at the masses as my responsibility. I look at the individual. I can love only one person at a time. I can feed only one person at a time. Just one, one, one. So you begin…I began.”
Carter said the effects of malnourishment are many. It affects the physical and intellectual growth of children, and can results in multiple chronic health conditions for seniors.
“Families shouldn’t have to choose between paying for medicines, rent or food.”
We are appreciative of the nearly 580 volunteers who contribute their time, talent and compassion every day we serve. We are grateful for all those who contribute food and financial donations to help us reach those in need. We are supportive of our board of directors and diocesan leadership as we consider ways such as a mobile food pantry to reach areas of the Diocese that are currently under served.
This is a wonderful and compassionate diocese. Our faith leads us to service. Join us in fighting hunger in our diocese.
Colbert is executive director of Catholic Charities. Carter is director of Our Daily Bread Food Pantry.