The millionth meal, which represents a 250% increase over the same period in 2019, was a cause for both celebration and sorrow. Cardinal Dolan told reporters at a Bronx event commemorating the meal, that “We are praising God for the generosity that He has inspired.” But each meal distributed represents that much more suffering that COVID-19 has brought to low-income, high-risk communities.
Increased demand for meals has been especially strong among seniors. Catholic Charities Community Services’ Homebound Program delivered nutritious groceries to about 60 seniors per month before the COVID crisis. Since March, demand surged to about 300 seniors per month — a 500% increase. CCCS has been able to track the needs of the communities they serve by putting in place a Wellness Check policy. This meant that families and individuals were getting phone or video check-ins about once a week to make sure any outstanding needs did not go unmet.
This big swell in meals required an equal expansion of effort by the staff and volunteers of Catholic Charities. One could trace the expansion of the project to the many pop-up food pantries and additional distribution channels that Catholic Charities introduced throughout Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten Island, and lower Hudson Valley. Even with these expanded programs, leaders in Catholic Charities predict that keeping up with demand will continue to be a challenge in 2020, because food insecurity is expected to worsen throughout the New York area.
The millionth meal was an important milestone, and at the very event celebrating it in the Bronx, Catholic Charities distributed an additional 2400 meals. As long as there is need, there will be Catholic Charities meeting that need.