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Pantry Counts Blessings, Wishes More Could Be Done
Nancy Phelan Wiechec and Emily Thompson
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Saturday, November 12, 2011
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A three-year-old waits patiently with his dad in a basement at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church Nov. 9.
WASHINGTON (CNS)—Two weeks before the Thanksgiving Day feast, Gwen Stroy was counting her blessings.

"We usually don't have this much chicken," she said, leaning over a box of frozen poultry. "Everyone will get chicken today!"

Stroy coordinates the food pantry at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in northeast Washington. She was excited that there was healthy protein going into each box and bag on this day.

The chicken, plus other meats, fresh vegetables and canned items will be handed out to 45 people who arrived for the parish's weekly food distribution.

They are not strangers. They are neighbors in need. A couple of the volunteers are themselves recipients of the charity.

Delano Kittrell, a senior who recently lost some of his Social Security benefits, was taking home two bags full of food. After his monthly bills are paid, he said, he has little money left for groceries.

Before coming to the pantry, "I didn't have enough food to get (me) through the month," he told Catholic News Service.

In a basement room at the church, 3-year-old Robert Wells and his dad, Kenneth, were among those waiting patiently for food.

According to a 2010 study by Feeding America, more than 5.7 million Americans seek emergency food assistance each week. Hunger is growing at an "alarming rate," said a report accompanying the study's release.

St. Anthony's pantry volunteers know it's true.

Over the past year or so, the number of people looking to the parish for food has more than doubled, from 15-20 people up to 50 each week, Stroy said.

The need is increasing. Yet with a limited budget for the pantry, Stroy and her volunteers can only provide enough food to each recipient for four to five meals. "That's all we can do," she said.

As they wrapped up their Wednesday distribution, the parishioners talked about the complete turkey meals they would give away in a couple of weeks.

"It's about 1,000 pounds of food," said one volunteer. "No," chimed in another, "Try, like 2 to 3,000 pounds."

One thing is certain; none of it ever goes to waste.

"What happens to the leftovers?" inquired a visitor.

"There are no leftovers," Stroy replied. "We never have any leftovers."

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