By Tim Harfmann
Servers are slicing, dicing and scooping hot food and fresh produce to help the less fortunate. At St. John’s Bread and Life in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn 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. She’s the executive director and said 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 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 Tweedy.
In addition to raising awareness, 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 Tweedy. “Many of us are grateful for the blessings that we have. Part of our faith teaches us that those blessings aren’t just for us. They’re meant to be shared,” said Sister Marie Sorenson. She is the associate executive director of the Catholic organization. “That helps a lot! 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,” said 80-year-old Elmore Walker gratefully. He survives on social security and takes care of his sick wife at home.
Last year, St. John’s Bread and Life served over 860,000 meals. Thanks to the ‘40/40 Program,’ the Catholic organization’s on track to serve over a million this year. “God blessed this place to serve so many,” said Walker. St. John’s Bread and Life is Brooklyn’s largest emergency food provider.