Diocesan News

On A Mission To Serve 40,000 Meals in Lent

By Tim Harfmann

Volunteers prepare the day’s menu at St. John’s Bread and Life emergency food facility in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Last year, St. John’s Bread and Life served more than 860,000 meals. (Photo Tim Harfmann)

At St. John’s Bread and Life in Bedford-Stuyvesant, servers are slicing, dicing and scooping hot food and fresh produce to help the less fortunate.

The Catholic organization is on a mission to serve 40,000 meals during the 40 days of Lent. It’s called the ‘40/40 Program.’

“We’ll definitely surpass it, but it’s a target for us,” said Sister Caroline Tweedy, R.S.M., executive director, who adds that the organization hands out nearly 3,000 meals on a daily basis.

Along with serving in their dining room, a mobile unit drives around Brooklyn and Queens to deliver meals every day. Clients can also shop for non-perishable food at digital kiosks, as servers bag them supermarket-style.

But the ‘40/40 Program’ is about more than passing a plate.

“It also gives us a chance to step back and pause and say, ‘we do this on a regular basis. Are we doing it with the right intentions? Are we making people aware of it?” said Sister Caroline.

In addition to raising awareness about hunger and homelessness, the people of St. John’s Bread and Life are also making their own Lenten sacrifices.

“What we’re doing is committing ourselves to one meal a week, that we are giving up, so that someone else can eat,” said Sister Caroline.

“Many of us are grateful for the blessings that we have,” said Sister Marie Sorenson, S.C., chaplain of the organization.  “Part of our faith teaches us that those blessings aren’t just for us. They’re meant to be shared.”

“That helps a lot!” explained 80-year-old Elmore Walker, who survives on Social Security and takes care of his sick wife at home.

“There’s a lot of people who are in need, and it’s kind of hard to get this in your mind about people needing food.”

Last year, St. John’s Bread and Life served more than 860,000 meals. Thanks to the ‘40/40 Program,’ the Catholic organization’s on track to serve more than a million meals this year. St. John’s Bread and Life is Brooklyn’s largest emergency food provider.

“God blessed this place to serve so many,” said Walker.

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