St. Mary’s, Derby, students feed the hungry

Jacob Florio hands an arm-full of pasta to Charli Drum Monday, Nov. 23, in The Lord’s Diner Food Pantry in Wichita. They are among the 21 eighth graders from St. Mary’s School in Derby who helped deliver, sort, and stock donations gathered during a school-wide drive. Video is available at (Advance photos)

Record set in food drive as students get a better understanding about stewardship way of life

DERBY – St. Mary Catholic School students competed last month in a food drive to stock the shelves at The Lord’s Diner’s Food Pantry.

Although the eighth-graders edged out the second-graders, it was the poor and hungry who were the real winners.
Debbie Moege, a middle school teacher at St. Mary’s, said the annual event is a passionate competition. “Our Principal Richard Montgomery always says the real prize is being able to help those who need help.”

This year’s drive set a record, Moege said, as 21 eighth-graders stocked the shelves in the pantry area of the Wichita diocesan ministry to the hungry. “We brought over 6,000 items with us to donate to The Lord’s Diner and their outreach program to the homeless.”

Entire parish assisted

The entire parish is invited to assist the students in the competition.

“The eighth-graders’ job every day included counting and collecting all of the food,” Moege said. “Then they categorize it so we know how many vegetables we brought versus the fruit versus the protein.”

Another group of eighth-graders were announcers who made up fun skits related to the food drive. This year they did it via the school’s announcement system, promoting the event and letting the school know periodically who the leaders were in the competition.

Moege said the best part of the entire event is that the students, the school, and the parish are doing the Lord’s work.

“It’s so important that we can provide any kind of outreach,” she said. “And when we can get our kids out to be a part of that and it’s not just lip service…my reaction is that they are now stewards. They’ve been stewards their whole lives. Now they get to be active in their diocese and make a difference.”

Most of the students are involved in church youth groups, Moege added. “But now they reach out to those beyond the parish walls.”

Helps address effects of pandemic

Jan Haberly, the executive director of the Diner, said despite having to deal with the effects of the pandemic, it is exciting for the ministry to be able to supplement the food needs of their patrons.

In addition to the Wednesday food pantry, the Diner will be giving out snacks in the morning.

“Every day we see guests come to our door and ask what time it is, because they’re hungry,” she said. “So we felt like a snack throughout the day might be a good option for our homeless.”

Snacks will be available from 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday at The Lord’s Diner. The start date will be sometime in mid-December.

“We’ll be giving them a little bag with snacks,” Haberly said. “We’ll also have socks available and other warm items they might need.”

The Wednesday food pantry will be open only to those in a 12-block corridor – a food desert, she said – within St. Francis and Main streets and First to 13th streets. Proof of address will be necessary.

“Bishop (Eugene) Gerber’s goal was to feed the folks in this area,” she said. “So we’re just taking next step to take care of those folks in this neighborhood.”