By Michael Gresham
The Texas Catholic
Volunteers hurriedly unpacked a truck trailer, setting up tables for distribution as cars and trucks continued to arrive, adding to a queue of vehicles stretching from the Oak Cliff parish, down the street and out of sight.
“It’s got to be a mile long,” said Edwin Chinchilla of the line of waiting vehicles. “There’s been such a tremendous need.”
Chinchilla, who coordinates Catholic Charities Dallas mobile food pantry program, joined community volunteers and parishioners at Holy Cross Catholic Church on April 22 to distribute food items to more than 200 families in need. The parish is one of 35 sites where the mobile food pantries visit monthly, providing fresh fruit, vegetables and food items. In many of these communities, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has magnified the need.
“We’ve had a 102-percent increase in the pounds of food distributed since the first week of COVID-19 and a 281-percent increase in the number of families served,” Chinchilla said. “That’s a 310-percent increase in families served compared to a normal week overall with all of our food services here at Catholic Charities.”
At Holy Cross, volunteers served 220 families, giving out more than 4,000 pounds of food. The following day in McKinney, the mobile food pantry served 214 families while giving out 6,739 pounds of food at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church.
“There’s just been a tremendous increase in the need, and we’re happy that we can meet the need, especially with the help of the North Texas Food Bank,” Mike Murray, chief development officer of Catholic Charities Dallas, said of the nonprofit’s partnership with NTFB. “We could not do this without them. And we could not do this without the support of all the volunteers from the parish communities.”
In addition to mobile food pantry collaborations, parishes have made other efforts to assist those in their communities. At St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in Richardson, volunteers distributed boxes of food items provided by Catholic Charities Dallas to people in need in their community on April 23. Meanwhile, on April 26, volunteers at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Plano, through its Lovepacs ministry, had more than 200 vehicles participate in its “Drive By Food Drive.”
Lovepacs, a nonprofit that focuses on feeding students in the community with breakfast and lunch boxes over extended breaks from school, is new to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.
“We have approximately 15 parishioners that have helped be Lovepacs ambassadors that shop for food for us, volunteer at the pantry and worked this food drive,” said Mimi Conner, who serves as the Plano chapter lead for Lovepacs. “It was so wonderful to see so many church family faces on a beautiful Sunday. The cars kept coming and the mountain of food kept growing.”
Conner called food drives such as the one at the Plano parish vital, especially with the concerns about COVID-19 impacting communities.
“We are delivering around 200 boxes a week directly to families, where normally no deliveries are being made except for families in crisis and extreme food insecurities,” she said. “What we received at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was more than I ever expected. I am thrilled that we now can make so many boxes that we do not have to ask for food donations until next month.”