Arlington, VA

The food pantry for an Arlington church is starting to run dangerously low on supplies for their weekly food distribution.

Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church (2700 19th Street S.) runs a food pantry that, once a week, provides a full bag of groceries. With Catholic churches in the Arlington Diocese no longer meeting on Sundays, Father Timothy Hickey sent a letter on Sunday to the congregation saying the situation with the food pantry has become increasingly dire.

“The number of families we serve has increased each of the past several weeks, and we anticipate that will only continue to grow,” Hickey said. “At the same time, with in-person masses suspended, our donations (both monetarily and food items) have considerably decreased. Combine those two factors and it is not difficult to appreciate the challenge we are facing.”

The church is not alone in this. Local organizations like the Arlington Food Assistance Center have also seen increasing needs and decreasing access to the traditional sources of donations.

“While everything else in our parish has scaled back and otherwise paused during this pandemic, our entire parish leadership very strongly feels it is vital to keep the Food Pantry open and continue to serve this community in need,” Hickey said. “We have a small but mighty staff and volunteers that are committed to keeping this ministry going to the best of our abilities.”

Hickey said there were three ways to contribute to the food pantry.

Monetary donations can be made online. A general donation will include the food pantry as well as money to pay for church staff salaries, but there is also an option to just donate to the pantry.

Food can also be dropped off at the shelter. Hickey said a bin will be placed behind the church from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday through Friday. There is also a list of specific foods requested for donation:

  • 1 bag of rice, any size (bigger ones will be split into a 1 lbs. bag)
  • 1 bag of dry beans, 1 lbs. or two cans of beans (prefer black, pinto or small red beans)
  • 1 pack of long or short pasta
  • 1 jar of pasta sauce approx. 24 oz. (any flavor is great)
  • 1 box of low sugar cereals (eg. Rice Krispies, Corn Flakes, Cheerios)
  • 1 can of corn approx. 16 oz
  • 1 can of green vegetables approx. 16 oz (eg. green beans, sweet peas)
  • 1 can of fruit in light syrup or in its own juices
  • 2 cans of tuna or packs of tuna in water or oil
  • 1 bottle of oil, 48 oz.
  • 1 bag of Tortimasa (no cornmeal)

The church, in Arlington’s Green Valley neighborhood, is also requesting help from volunteers to help break food into smaller servings for individual grocery bags.

To this end, the following are our current volunteer needs.

  • 2 Food Sourcing Volunteers — These volunteers will be calling the list of stores and other food sources (eg. Costco, BJ’s, Restaurant Depot) each week to determine which of the Food Pantry needed items are in stock. Ultimately, these volunteers will be coming up with the shopping list and location for the volunteer grocery shoppers. Because so many stores are running out of items, the ideal volunteer for this role will have plenty of patience and persistence. When Plans A, B and C don’t work out because the stores can’t meet the demand, we are looking for creative and resourceful personalities who thrive on figuring out the plan even if that means getting all the way down to Plans X, Y and Z. The ideal volunteer for this role can commit to weekly or every other week outreach through mid-June.
  • 4 Bulk Grocery Shoppers — For this role that involves receiving the grocery list and completing the grocery run for bulk items, the ideal volunteer will have a large car, be able to carry large amounts of heavy items and would be able to commit to weekly or every other week grocery runs through midJune.
  • 1 Signage Volunteer — Any budding artists among us? Signs are needed to clearly mark the bins where in-person donations will be received. This is a short term and immediate need. Perhaps ideal for one of our Religious Education families?
  • 1 Admin Assistant — This ideal volunteer is someone with strong computer skills to help organize various aspects of this effort such as creating volunteer lists, organizing team calls and various other types of simple items that come up. Ideally would be able to commit through mid-June.

“It is only through your generosity that we are able to continue to help supplement their food needs,” Hickey said, “especially in this time of crisis.”

Photo via Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church

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