Food assistance programs bring love of Jesus to feed the hungry, displaced

October 12, 2021

Volunteers help distribute food at the Mamie George Community Center (MGCC) in the Richmond-Rosenberg area of Fort Bend County. (Photo courtesy of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston)

HOUSTON — When it comes to feeding the hungry and homeless living in the Houston area, the numbers are great, and the stories about the life circumstances that led them down these roads vary. Food assistance programs offered by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston not only focus on feeding their hunger pangs but also providing care and compassion to feed starving souls in need of the love of Jesus Christ.

Since 1943, the ministry has been fulfilling its vision to be a people of faith, assisting individuals and families in need in Southeast Texas to achieve self-sufficiency and live with dignity. This includes its Family Assistance Program that prevents hunger and homelessness through a network of four resource centers in Fort Bend, Galveston and Harris counties. They provide staple non-perishable food items, fresh produce and frozen meats to ensure important nutritional needs are met. In addition, large-scale drive-through food distributions held on a weekly basis bring food to anyone who attends and expresses a need.

At the Mamie George Community Center (MGCC) in the Richmond-Rosenberg area of Fort Bend County, Brock C. Akers and his wife, Colleen, have been serving with Catholic Charities through the Order of Malta. He is inspired by their ministry work together day in and day out that he feels fulfills the call for Christians to bring the love and affection of Jesus Christ to all those in need, especially the hungry and homeless.

Akers said the volunteers have been forced to social distance because of the pandemic, yet through the car windows, they see so much of what the people in need in the community experience.

“Some of the folks coming through our line have been living in their cars, and many are so unaccustomed to needing help with something as fundamental as groceries that they are broken, and somewhat ashamed,” said Akers. “We hear the stories, we share the tears, but most of all, we have been able to demonstrate to those whose paths have been placed in front of us that the love of Jesus Christ is boundless and is found in many places and many forms. The sense of gratitude and relief that we are shown at each and every food fair fills our tanks, making us anxious to come back.”

According to Cynthia N. Colbert, MSW, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, more than half (57%) of the households that received food assistance from Catholic Charities from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021 were served in Fort Bend County. The same is true for individuals served (55%) and pounds of food distributed (63%). She said due to an increase in need during the pandemic area-wide, there is a higher than usual level of service currently.

“COVID-19 created a greater need for food assistance and assistance in general, so as a result, the number of clients served and pounds of food distributed grew dramatically in both 2020 and 2021 compared to pre-pandemic years,” said Colbert.

Catholic Charities served 343,869 individuals from 80,170 households in food assistance alone, more than triple the annual average during normal operations. In addition, 1.6 million pounds of food were distributed in 2019, which rose to 2.6 million in 2020 and doubled to 5.2 million in 2021.

Colbert said, since March 2020, services have been modified to ensure continued health and safety of clients, volunteers and staff. This includes drive-thru food distributions and home delivery of meals, diapers and other household goods. In 2020, close to 3,000 home deliveries of food and other essentials were made by Catholic Charities, which doubled to 6,203 in 2021.

“We continue to provide large-scale food distributions on a weekly basis and have resumed limited in-person services at our food pantries, which allow clients to safely self-select food items directly from our pantries,” said Colbert. “Moving forward, we plan to continue to conduct food distributions and are working toward scaling up our in-person services as the state of the pandemic permits.”

Catholic Charities, one of the 60-plus ministries supported by the Diocesan Services Fund (DSF), directly benefits from this annual unrestricted support from the Archdiocese that can be used throughout the agency in areas of highest need. Colbert said this is one of the largest single contributions the ministry receives annually.

“By supporting the DSF, the Catholic community is able to pool resources to create a larger impact — not just at Catholic Charities, but for other ministries supported by the Archdiocese,” said Colbert. “In this way, every donation, no matter how large or small, is an important piece of the larger picture. We couldn’t do what we do without the support of the Archdiocese and the DSF.”

Akers encourages the faithful to support the DSF so he and his team of volunteers can continue to do their good works at the food pantry.

“Catholic Charities touches people at all walks of life, and it should be looked at not just for the wonderful services performed for those in need or those in a temporary crisis,” said Akers. “That part of the institution is well known and well understood, but it is also an organization that serves the people like me who might not otherwise have a means and opportunity to give of themselves directly. That sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, knowing that you are fulfilling God’s will for your life, has a value that cannot be measured.”