Food ministry a win-win for parish and local businesses

| October 23, 2013 | 0 Comments
Volunteer Susie Van Hoomissen, a member of St. Patrick in Edina, loads food onto a cart at Sharing and Caring Hands in Minneapolis. Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit

Volunteer Susie Van Hoomissen, a member of St. Patrick in Edina, loads food onto a cart at Sharing and Caring Hands in Minneapolis. Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit

For the past six years, volunteers from St. Patrick parish in Edina have been collecting prepared, perishable food donations from local restaurants and delivering them to Sharing and Caring Hands in Minneapolis.

On a recent morning, Susie Van Hoomissen backed up to the loading dock at Sharing and Caring Hands to unload the bags and boxes of frozen food — from restaurants like Chipotle, Papa John’s, Caribou and Starbucks — that filled the back of her car.

“They freeze the food and bring it here and we make hotdishes and burritos and other things with it,” said Mary Jo Copeland, founder of Sharing and Caring Hands. “It’s been a real big help here.”

For the past two years, Van Hoomissen has been part of the network of volunteer drivers from St. Patrick that pick up and drop off the donations.

The ministry is a way the working mom of two teenagers can give back to the community, Van Hoomissen said. “It’s flexible and I can make my own hours,” she said.

Workers at each restaurant pack up the leftover food to donate and store it in the freezer. Then a volunteer from St. Patrick picks it up and puts it in a large freezer at the church. Twice a week, a volunteer delivers the food to Sharing and Caring Hands.

“It is a beautiful thing to see,” said Maura Schnorbach, social justice coordinator at St. Patrick. “It really moves your heart when you see the amount of food that is coming in and going out and you look at these awesome volunteers that are making this happen.”

The parish works with Harvest Support Center, a national organization that works with non-profits to find or develop resources to support their efforts to offer the hungry prepared, perishable food.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 33 million tons of food waste ended up in landfills in 2011. “I think this is an amazing program,” Van Hoomissen said. “There’s so much waste that goes into the dumpster that could be used in so many ways.”

It’s hard to imagine that people are going hungry, and yet so much food is being thrown away, Schnorbach said. This ministry feeds hungry people, reduces food waste and provides tax benefits for the companies that donate.

“The restaurants love it because they are doing something great for us and they’re helping to feed hungry people,” Schnorbach said. “So they’re energized and excited about it.”

The parish has created a system and has worked to put best practices in place. They could help other interested parishes get started, Schnorbach said.

“They have businesses that are all ready to go,” Schnorbach said. “Part of it, too, is the invitation to the broader community to say this is a really neat ministry.”

“This is the Good News, this is what social justice is,” Schnorbach said. “This is the good work of our church and this is the real joy, even though we stand next to the heartbreak. We see that suffering, and yet there is this response, there is something that we can do.”

Share your thoughts

The Catholic Spirit is looking for story ideas for its “What Works” series.

We want to hear from parishes and schools about an idea, plan, project or program that is currently showing successful results. Submitters should explain the purpose of the initiative and outline the steps that led to success.

Our goal is to give parishes and schools an opportunity to share ideas for doing ministry more effectively and/or more efficiently.

• Email your story idea to: WhatWorks@archspm.org

• Or mail your idea to: “What Works,” c/o The Catholic Spirit, 244 Dayton Ave., St. Paul, MN 55102.

Please include your name, parish and daytime telephone number.

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Category: What Works