Hunger Solidarity Challenge set for week of March 22-28
In light of Dayton being ranked fourth in the nation for food hardship, the Catholic Social Action Office and Weavers of Justice are calling for Miami Valley residents to take one week in Lent to stand in solidarity with hungry families in the area.
Óscar Andrés Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga of Honduras, the president of Caritas Internationalis, joined the local organizations at a press conference March 10 to encourage area residents to stand in solidarity with the poor – both in this area and throughout the world. Caritas Internationalis coordinates humanitarian, development and international activities on behalf of its members and the Holy See.
The press conference also served as a local effort to bring awareness to the Holy Father’s call and that of Caritas Internationalis of “One Human Family, Food for All” campaign. Caritas Internationalis is the international counterpart to Catholic Charities USA, and Catholic Charities USA is a network of diocesan- based Catholic Charities and Catholic Social Services across the United States.
At the press conference, CSSMV Executive Director Laura Roesch talked about the increase in emergency requests for food at the organization’s Dayton food pantry – up 40 percent since 2008. “In recent years we have seen so many first-time visitors to our food pantry. These are people who never expected to find themselves needing to ask for this kind of help, and who are now reaching out for the very first time,” said Roesch. “In addition to providing them with emergency food assistance, CSSMV encourages pantry clients to participate in our Family Stabilization and Support program, through which we serve as a gateway to other services and resources in the community that can help them find paths to self-sufficiency.”
Two individuals who have received assistance from the CSSMV food pantry, Ruby Taylor and Carolyn Smith, talked about the difficulties they have experienced in getting food when they didn’t have reliable transportation. For example, they would have to walk to neighborhood convenience stores (such as drug stores, dollar-type stores and gas stations) or ride a bus to a grocery store in the weeks between their visits to CSSMV’s food pantry. Neither Taylor nor Smith receives assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.
Anna Plataniotis of the Second Harvest Foodbank in Springfield shared how that community is also experiencing an increased need for emergency food assistance. Second Harvest is operated by Catholic Charities of Southwest Ohio.
Weavers of Justice, a social justice collaborative of parishes and organizations, chose in 2014 to focus on legislative advocacy and food sufficiency after learning that a 2013 report from the Food Research and Action Center ranked Dayton fourth in the nation for food hardship. “We also know that this region has a number of food deserts where there aren’t traditional grocery stores and people lack cars to drive out of their neighborhoods to get nutritious food, such as fruits and vegetables,” said Pam Long, regional director of the Catholic Social Action Office in Dayton.
In order to increase awareness and understanding, Weavers of Justice has created the Hunger Solidarity Challenge, which encourages area residents to live on the average SNAP budget of $37.50 a week or $4.50 a day per person for the week of March 22-28. During that time, participants are asked to get food in their neighborhoods by walking to gas stations, drug stores and dollar-type stores, or by taking public transportation or getting rides from friends or family members.
More information about the Hunger Solidarity Challenge is available online at http://www.catholiccincinnati.org/ministries-offices/catholic-social-action/justice-collaboratives/dayton/
Participants can then share their experiences on the Catholic Social Action Facebook page at www.facebook.com/csacinci.
“Lent is this beautiful opportunity to reconnect with God, and through this Hunger Solidarity Challenge we can reconnect with our neighbors who are struggling to feed their families with limited incomes and limited transportation resources,” said Long. “We are following Jesus on his path of suffering when we walk the path our neighbors with low incomes walk in providing food for their families’ tables. Please join us in shouldering the cross of hunger for one week.”