Dear friend of Loaves and Fishes:
This has been a very challenging year. COVID-19 has been a widespread public health emergency, affecting every corner of our country and world. But the coronavirus has also affected individuals and families on a personal level, causing horrible sickness and deaths.
The pandemic has also had ripple effects that are devastating in their own right. Our country’s economy has experienced a major disruption, which has meant the suspension or loss of jobs for millions of workers. This economic uncertainty and instability for individuals and families has led to hunger.
Like many other institutions and programs, Loaves and Fishes is under various restrictions to limit close contact between people and large gatherings. But I assure you that the program has continued its work uninterrupted since March, pausing operations for only one weekend at the beginning of the pandemic. The need for nutritious meals didn’t stop, and neither did Loaves and Fishes.
During the pandemic, the program has supplied individuals and families with cold lunches to go for many months. In recent months it has resumed providing hot meals on Sundays, although they, too, are distributed on a to-go basis outside.
Thanks to the overwhelming generosity of you, the Loaves and Fishes community in Columbia Heights and Washington, D.C., in Virginia and Maryland – and even elsewhere in the U.S. – we have continued our work every weekend and federal holiday, even though many other activities have ceased or gone on hiatus.
In fact, by some measures, Loaves and Fishes has even expanded its work, thanks to you. The program has adapted and used innovative ways to assist the community in meeting their basic needs for food. A few times in the past several months, Loaves and Fishes has purchased and distributed gift cards from local grocery stores and given them directly to families in need in the neighborhood and parish of St. Stephen as well as the suburbs. In early September, 71 families – 385 adults and children – received grocery cards. In May, Loaves and Fishes donated $3,000 worth of grocery store gift cards to select tenants – a total of 60 people, including families and a few individuals – at an apartment building near St. Stephen.
Another consequence of the pandemic has been mandatory social distancing. We have all experienced multiple forced separations – from the office or classroom, from coworkers and teachers, and from friends and families. We have not been attending worship services, family gatherings or get-togethers with friends. We are all suffering an empty feeling from this huge disruption in our lives and routines.
Part of the name of the church where Loaves and Fishes operates – St. Stephen and the Incarnation – is a Christian principle of God taking human form among us on Earth. God showed up in our lives in the form of Jesus, and Christians at St. Stephen and the Incarnation and around the world celebrate his birth at this time of year. Jesus fills the gap between God and humans and is a tangible expression of God’s love and care for us. Jesus is sometimes called Immanuel, which means “God with us.” God is present with us in Jesus.
Whether you are a Christian or not, as a supporter of Loaves and Fishes, you have been playing a similar role with your gifts of time or money for the program: You fill a gap – a gap of hunger. While many of us are still practicing social distancing – while we are maintaining a separation between people we normally are with – you show up for families in need in your support of Loaves and Fishes. You are a caring presence for people who are hungry in your financial support of the program.
This is the time of year for our country’s biggest holidays, and they’re built around food. Our holidays usually involve sharing big meals with family and friends and enjoying happy times around abundant tables. But many people who rely on Loaves and Fishes are going without these vital things – personal contact with family and friends and food.
We have all sacrificed something this year and gone without. But food and nutritious meals are things that nobody can or should go without. Loaves and Fishes fills a hunger gap. In these times when people and food are absent from people’s lives, you show up and show care for people in the neighborhood when you give to Loaves and Fishes.
Please give today so Loaves and Fishes can provide food this holiday season and into 2021 for people who are hungry.
With wishes for a safe and healthy holiday season,
Chair, Loaves and Fishes Management Board
P.S. Your financial gift today will give somebody a nutritious meal this weekend. Your gift is you showing up to fill the gap of hunger and helping Loaves and Fishes provide meals to people who are hungry. The COVID-19 pandemic has made many programs harder to operate, but your generosity has enabled Loaves and Fishes to continue and even to expand. Please help make that the case into the new year and as the pandemic and hardship continue.