By Jessica Easthope
At St. John’s Bread & Life, feeding those in need is a numbers game.
70,000 — that’s the number of pounds of food that has been given out ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. 3,000 — the number of meals served every single day — has been quadrupled during the pandemic.
“A lot of people who never expected to be on our lines are on our lines asking for help and you see the fear in people’s faces, like ‘What do I do? I have to pay my rent, I have to feed my kids.’ So if we can be that support for them, we feel like we’ve accomplished a lot,” said Sister Caroline Tweedy, the Executive Director of St. John’s Bread & Life.
For Sister Caroline says staying ahead of the numbers and the need is what makes the soup kitchen successful. When it comes to the “bread,” they have it covered. But in recent months, the “life” part of their mission has been challenging.
“The one thing that really is missing for us is that sense of community. Bread & Life has always been that place, that refuge for people. Come in, have a meal, see a movie, go to crocheting class, we can’t do any of that,” Sister Caroline explained.
The day before Thanksgiving, staff and volunteers — a team that’s been severely cut down for social distancing — is working double time.
“I have social workers who are on this line handing out food, case managers who are stuffing bags, directors who are running out in the street, everybody is doing their part,” Sister Caroline said.
They all have the same goal: to help people like Rebecca Crowley.
“It’s a blessing to make sure my children don’t go to bed hungry,” said Rebecca, a client at the soup kitchen.
Rebecca and her veteran husband both lost their jobs during the pandemic. With three young kids at home, Rebecca relies on St. John’s Bread & Life to make Thanksgiving special.
“It’s the best feeling in the world to be able to make a meal knowing you came here and put it down in front of my family just the look in their eyes,” she said.
This Thanksgiving, the pandemic isn’t stopping St. John’s Bread & Life from showing people they still care. 6,000 is the number of people they’ll feed, and the number of reasons to have hope.