Franciscan Friday: Combating Hunger in D.C.
In honor of September’s Hunger Action Month, we’re sharing experiences of combating hunger.
In Washington, D.C. one in eight households struggles with hunger. D.C.’s poverty rate is the third highest in the nation, and on any given night, 6,000 people here are homeless.
While our short and long-term international mission programs focus our attention on issues of poverty and hunger abroad, we cannot be blind to the plight in the city that’s home to our staff, administrative offices, residential community, and missioner training. So we take action — mostly in supporting those who have dedicated themselves to the fight against hunger.
While our missioners are in D.C. for the 13 weeks of training, they spend their Wednesday mornings volunteering with one of the many wonderful organizations that are working to address issues of poverty — including hunger — in the nation’s capital:
- Father McKenna Center, the last day-time drop-in center for homeless men in the downtown Washington, D.C. area.
- Little Sisters of the Poor Jeanne Jugan Residence, a nursing home for low-incoming elderly located in our neighborhood.
- Missionaries of Charity’s Gift of Peace House another nursing home in our neighborhood which cares for those who are homeless, socially or medically compromised, or have HIV.
- Christ House, the first 24-hour residential medical facility for homeless men and women in the U.S.
These Wednesday morning sessions allow our missioners to participate in and contribute to the wonderful work of our neighbors. The missioners-in-training are also able to apply the formation lessons as well as learn on how to reflect on their experiences. Above all, the service work here in D.C. allows our missioners to follow Jesus’ example of befriending the poor and vulnerable. Because even those who may not be hungering for food, could be hungering for companionship.
Because we found the experience of engaging in anti-poverty work in the U.S. to be so formative for our missioners, we have created additional opportunities for young people to participate. In addition to the organizations above, our domestic volunteers have been spending their Wednesday afternoons serving at:
- Miriam’s Kitchen an organization in Foggy Bottom that address the causes and consequences of homelessness in an atmosphere of dignity and respect. Miriam’s Kitchen provides breakfast and dinner, in addition to case management services and other programs.
- Mary House, an organization in our neighborhood that provides transitional housing services, shelter, and support programs — including biweekly food pick-ups — to homeless and struggling families.
We especially designed our Spring Break Poverty Awareness and Advocacy Trip to educate and expose college students to hunger and poverty issues in the U.S. This March, students from the University of Georgia participated in the work of the Missionaries of Charity as well as:
- The Capital Area Food Bank, which feeds those who suffer from hunger in the Washington metro area by acquiring food and distributing it through its network of partner agencies; and educating, empowering and enlightening the community about the issues of hunger and nutrition.
- SOME – So Others Might Eat Feed, which for more than 40 years has fed and clothed DC’s homeless and poor. It also provides medical, dental and mental health programs; job training; and housing.
We are honored to work with all these local organizations and the populations which they serve. Please join us in holding them in prayer throughout the month of September.