Catholic Charities sees need continue as spring arrives

BRAINTREE -- People often think of the needy at Christmastime or in the dead of winter facing high heating bills or the need for warm clothes, but even as the weather continues to improve, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston wants people to know that the need continues.

"Regardless of the weather, the need for food is as critical as it ever has been. Families just cannot make it on their weekly or monthly paychecks," Megan Artz, vice president for Development at Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston, told The Pilot during an interview, March 3.

Catholic Charities' Basic Needs program helps families supplement their incomes by providing them with certain necessities, including food, utility assistance, and clothing.

The program is partially supported through the organization's Friends Feeding Families campaign, which invites individuals to donate food or money. However, Artz noted, donating is no longer on people's minds, and the upcoming summer months are actually the worst for needy families.

"So many children, unfortunately, whose families participate and use our food pantries, they're getting the subsidized breakfast and lunches during school time, and then in summer months they aren't in school so they're not getting that service," said Artz.

She noted that "People's awareness decreases, because people aren't thinking about (donating)."

The Basic Needs program "addresses families' immediate needs, including food, shelter, and, from time to time, heat and utilities," said Annmarie Farretta, director of Marketing and Communications for Catholic Charities.

Over the years, more and more families have needed assistance. Farretta noted that in 2013, the Catholic Charities food pantry in Yawkey Center, Dorchester gave out 7,000 pounds of food a week, and now, only three years later, it gives out up to 20,000 pounds a week.

Catholic Charities operates five food pantries within the Archdiocese of Boston, with the largest being the one at the Yawkey Center in Dorchester.

Families are able to visit the pantries once a month, and the amount of food they receive is limited by their family size.

"Food pantries were initially set up way back when to be that gap-filler when food stamps would run out towards the end of the month, but unfortunately now, with food stamps being cut back, (people) try to stretch it as far as they can," said Artz.

The Friends Feeding Families campaign helps sustain those food pantries, and calls on support from individuals, organizations, and even schools.

"Just recently, we visited St Joseph's School in Wakefield, and they used (the campaign) for students to learn about how to help their friends and neighbors," said Artz.

She said the school, from kindergarten to the eighth grade, had conducted a food drive and a penny drive.

"The whole concept of Friends Feeding Families is something that people of all ages can put their arms around because it's just about helping each other," she said.

To learn more about Catholic Charities' Basic Needs program and the Friends Feeding Families campaign, go to www.ccab.org/.

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