ROCHESTER — Hoping to target low-income families needing food assistance, Friends Helping Friends has relocated its Sunday-afternoon food-distribution program from two downtown sites to the parish hall at Holy Redeemer/St. Francis Xavier Church, 316 Bay Street.
FHF highlighted the relocation with a “Hunger Awareness Day” on Nov. 21. Local radio station 104FM-WDKX broadcasted live from the parish to promote a Thanksgiving turkey giveaway during the distribution, which drew hundreds of people.
“We’re distributing groceries to low-income people, and we’re trying to draw attention to hunger and poverty,” said Andrew Stankevich, FHF director and a former staff member of St. Joseph House of Hospitality, a Catholic Worker shelter in Rochester.
Stankevich said FHF receives donations from the FOODLINK food bank as well as other organizations, businesses and churches, including several Catholic parishes. FHF also has worked with various Catholic ministries and received support from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the U.S. bishops’ anti-poverty program.
Stankevich said that FHF used to operate its Sunday distribution program at two locations downtown, but decided to move the program to Holy Redeemer/St. Francis Xavier because the neighborhood is without a food cupboard provider. Diana A. Krenzer, the church’s secretary, added that her church fields three to five calls each week from families seeking food and/or other forms of assistance. Her faith community distributed about 85 Thanksgiving baskets to families on Nov. 21, she added.
“There is a big, big amount of people that call and request for help,” Krenzer said.
Stankevich noted that demand for food assistance continues to grow, as indicated by a report from the Hunger Action Network of New York State, representing emergency food programs throughout the state. The report found a 20.4 percent increase in the number of New York residents fed by emergency food programs from 2002 to 2003. Meanwhile, the report said, more than 37 percent of food programs saw an increase in the numbers of working poor seeking food assistance, and more than half of the programs saw increases in the numbers of senior citizens and children needing food.
Many of the people seeking food on Nov. 21 at Holy Redeemer/St. Francis Xavier seem to fit the description of those described in the network’s report. Several families with children stood in the long lines, as well as such older individuals as Patricia Richardson, a retired Xerox worker who lives on Social Security. Richardson said she seeks assistance when her other bills — utilities, for example — eat into her food budget.
“I do the best I can,” Richardson said. “I’ve made it so far.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: To learn more about Friends Helping Friends, call 585/254-5490 or visit www.friendshelpingfriends.cjb.net.