Immigrants And Refugees

10 million meals delivered by Catholic Charities: Bronx ceremony and food distribution marks milestone

Executive Director of Catholic Charities New York, Monsignor Kevin Sullivan and client at Sacred Heart Parish, Bronx. Credit: Johnny Zhang for Catholic Charities New York

Catholic Charities marked the distribution of 10 million meals during the COVID-19 pandemic with a food distribution and outreach on immigration, housing, and health care at Sacred Heart Church in the Highbridge section of the Bronx July 29.

Catholic, civic and business leaders emphasized that while there is much to celebrate, the event also was an occasion to note the extent of suffering caused by the pandemic.

The 10 million meals, said Beatriz Diaz Taveras, Executive Director of Catholic Charities Community Services, noting 200 popup food distribution events sponsored by Catholic Charities throughout the city during the pandemic, “is a sad reminder of what the pandemic has done,” forcing isolation, job loss, and exacerbating need in already hard-pressed neighborhoods.

Clients at Sacred Heart Church in the Highbridge, Bronx Credit: Johnny Zhang for Catholic Charities New York

The church through Catholic Charities has responded, said Cardinal Timothy Dolan, because feeding the hungry is not optional for Christians.

“If we don’t feed the hungry, guess what? We’re going to hell,” he said, citing Matthew’s Gospel.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.” (MT 25:35-40). The cardinal continued, “That’s what we will be judged on.”

While the pandemic created a greater need, Cardinal Dolan emphasized, “this isn’t new for Catholic Charities. We’re doing it all the time.”

The event included the distribution of 300 bags of food provided by Goya. Participants were also given information on immigration issues; food aid available via the federal SNAP program, and applying for rent assistance from New York State. Vaccinations were also provided, with those taking the shots for the first time provided a $50 incentive. Rafael Toro, Director of Public Relations for Goya, announced that the company has pledged 300,000 pounds of food for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York.

Cardinal Dolan (C) with Rafael Toro (L) and Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner (R) Credit: Johnny Zhang for Catholic Charities New York

Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, said there has been a decline in need as pandemic restrictions gradually lifted this summer. But there are signs on the horizon that food distribution efforts will remain necessary, particularly as rent protection for tenants and unemployment benefits expire.

Those programs, he said, “are helping people to get by. When some of these programs end, there will be increased need. I can assure you that Catholic Charities will be here.”

Meanwhile, Catholic Charities’ food distribution efforts continue throughout the five boroughs of New York City, including sites on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and on Staten Island, as well as the Hudson Valley.

Client welcomed by Catholic Charities Community Services. Credit: Johnny Zhang for Catholic Charities New York

Msgr. Sullivan thanked the corporate and government partnerships which made the 10 million meals distribution possible. Besides Toro, who represented Goya, Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner, who represents the Highbridge neighborhood, also spoke in appreciation of Catholic Charities’ efforts.

“In a country where we are so divided, one of Catholic Charities’ missions is to bring people together,” said Msgr. Sullivan. “The dignity of the human person is not partisan,” he said, noting that Catholic Charities is committed to working across divides to accomplish its mission.

“Too many people don’t talk to each other. We will talk to anyone,” he said.