VANCOUVER – During simultaneous stop-and-drop food drives on May 6, four southwest Washington Catholic schools collected more than 20,000 pounds of food and essential items in just two hours to help families in their communities.
“As Catholics we are called to serve and help others and there’s no better time like now,” Vikki Pynenburg, development and marketing director at Our Lady of Lourdes School in Vancouver, wrote in an email. “During COVID-19, we might be apart, but we still have a part to play in our community.”
The food and other items were collected by Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Joseph School and Seton Catholic High School, all in Vancouver, and St. Rose School in Longview. The food drives benefitted the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Longview, St. Vincent de Paul of Vancouver, Clark County Food Bank, and Share, an outreach organization in Vancouver.
Food donations pile up in a truck at St. Rose School in Longview during a May 6 food drive. At the end of the two-hour event, more than 9,000 pounds had been collected for St. Vincent de Paul in Longview. Photo: Courtesy St. Rose School
“About 9,000 pounds of food was dropped off today at our food drive!” St. Rose School wrote on its Facebook page. “The truck filled with donations will help so many at St. Vincent de Paul. Thank you to all of our families, friends and parish members who contributed to this amazing feat!”
St. Joseph School, which collected more than 3,100 pounds of food and items, posted a video from the day on its Facebook page.
The food drives were a way for students to live out Catholic social teaching and perform a corporal work of mercy, feeding the hungry. But the events also were an opportunity for students, parents and staff to see each other and work together — keeping a safe distance.
After seven weeks of distance learning, “it was important to come together in an act of service for our local community,” Pynenburg wrote.
Carolyn Palmer, executive director of SVdP in Vancouver, witnessed firsthand the power of the event at Our Lady of Lourdes. She donned a mask and joined students and volunteers as they gathered donations from motorists who pulled up to the school’s curb.
It was “amazing” to see so much community support, Palmer said, adding that the drive will make a big difference during the pandemic.
“A lot of food is going out the door,” she said, and the school’s food drive donations will help some 445 families get through a week.
“The magnitude of anyone that does a food drive is huge for us,” Palmer said.
The school drive came at a crucial time for SVdP because the annual letter carriers’ food drive in May was canceled, and more families are relying on the food bank during the pandemic, Palmer said. In April, 1,955 households were served, an increase of nearly 200 over March, she said.
“We are serving a lot of new faces that have never picked up from an emergency pantry before,” Palmer said. “It’s a very humbling experience for people. There’s a lot of anxiety right now; we do not want food insecurity to add to their load.”