By Debbie Rambo | Boston Pilot, Friday, October 17, 2014
Although the Great Recession may have nominally ended in late 2009, new U.S. Census data reveals that its effects still linger state- and nationwide. While unemployment rates have declined, it has become increasingly difficult for working Massachusetts residents to stay afloat; six million more now live in near-poverty. One in six Massachusetts children is growing up in poverty and one in four residents of any age now live below twice the federal poverty level.
Shelly is a 45 year old single mother with three children: two daughters aged 17 and 7, and a son aged 5. Shelly works in the medical field and despite working two jobs -- days, evenings and weekends -- she struggles constantly to make ends meet and is behind on bills most months. Shelly reached out to Catholic Charities because she needed a small amount of financial assistance to set up a payment plan with the electric company -- she was subject to a shutoff and was worried about functioning in a house with no electricity and particularly worried about the impact it would have on her children.
Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we were able to provide Shelly with enough money to cover the cost for the minimum down payment needed to establish a payment plan with the electric company and avoid shut-off. We also provided Shelly with food staples that allowed her to stretch her budget, helping to alleviate the financial strain that consumed her with worry.
Inspired by working families like Shelly's this fall we kick-off our seventh annual Friends Feeding Families Brown Bag Campaign. The campaign had its beginnings during the worst of the Great Recession, and has two primary goals: to increase awareness of the Catholic Charities Basic Needs Emergency Services program and to raise the financial support necessary to meet the requests received by our Basic Needs programs which provide food, fuel and rental assistance to individuals and families in need.
The Brown Bag is our call to action. It encourages our supporters -- old and new -- to be brown bag sponsors, host brown bag parties, buy grocery gift cards, fill bags with groceries, or make cash gifts in support of our efforts.
The theme of this year's campaign is "Hunger Chopped." As we kick-off the campaign, we have invited three local chefs to compete in cooking contest modeled after the popular Food Network game show "Chopped." We are delighted that Nikki Christos, chef and owner of Blunch; David Verdo, executive chef at CHOPPS American Bar and Grill; and Rob Whittenhagen, executive chef at Burtons Grill of Hingham, have agreed to contribute their time and talent as they take the Hunger Chopped challenge.
Each chef will choose from the foods available in our food pantries to prepare a meal that will then be judged for its taste, appeal and quality by a panel of community judges. The recipe of the winning meal will be added to the food and other basic needs resources we make available to our families.
At Catholic Charities, we know all too well that too many of our neighbors do not have the resources necessary to feed their families healthy and nutritious meals. It is our hope that our Friends Feeding Families Brown Bag Campaign helps insure that the food we distribute is as healthy and plentiful as possible. To learn more about the campaign and how you can participate go to: www. FriendsFeedingFamilies.org.
Deborah Kincade Rambo is president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston.