MIRA MESA – The members of Good Shepherd Parish wanted to reach out into the community to help their neighbors in need.
That’s why its Pastoral Council agreed to participate in a program that Catholic Charities planned to launch in March to distribute food to needy families once a month.
Then the pandemic hit and, overnight, thousands more families faced a loss of income and potential hunger. The agency quickly expanded its plans, enlisted 21 partner parishes in San Diego and Imperial counties, and launched the Emergency Food Distribution Network on April 6.
Needy families can sign up to either pick up food packages at a participating parish, or have a volunteer drop it off at their homes, if they are unable to travel for any reason.
Good Shepherd agreed to participate in the network. In the beginning, the parish was distributing a little more than 100 food packages a week. By mid-May, volunteers were handing out a total of 460 food packages per week, distributed twice a week. Now that the parish has re-opened its public Masses, it’s cut back to once-a-week distribution. The parish distributed 320 food packages the week of June 15.
That’s all according to Teresa McKinney, who coordinates the food distribution for the parish. She’s the chair of the Pastoral Council and a teacher at the school there.
She said that 20 to 30 volunteers help with the various aspects of the program every week, including Knights of Columbus. They pick up the food in bulk at Cathedral Catholic High School, help to package it, and distribute it from tables outside the parish hall or deliver it to homes, all done following social distancing and other hygiene guidelines.
The volunteers speak English, Spanish and Vietnamese, the three communities the parish supports, and McKinney herself also speaks all three languages.
“We’ve had great response” from our communities, she added.
She said the parish is grateful that Catholic Charities developed the program, supported in partnership with the San Diego Food Bank and Feeding San Diego.
The agency served a total of 25,147 people in May in the two counties, according to its chief operating officer, Appaswamy “Vino” Pajanor. A total of 750 volunteers assisted the program that month, investing a total of 3,375 hours, he added.
He’s indicated the agency will continue to provide this emergency food as long as it’s needed.
The coordinator said that the Good Shepherd community stepped up to put faith in action.
“It’s a great way to show that our church isn’t just there to lead spiritual growth but also put our bodies in action to really work in the mission of helping our brothers and sisters in need, especially during this time.”
Low-income families and homebound individuals facing hunger during the COVID-19crisis may request a food package from the Emergency Food Distribution Network by calling (619) 323-2841, option 2, or through the page ccdsd.org/efdn.