Judith Mutamba, director of food and nutrition services for Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri (CCCNMO), and Rebecca Jennings, nutrition education AmeriCorps member at Catholic Charities, took down names, handed out boxes of nutritious food and visited with residents of the Robert Hyder Apartments in Jefferson City.
“See you next month!” Ms. Jennings said while sporting a turquoise Catholic Charities T-shirt and facemask.
They were signing people up on June 16 for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP). The program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and overseen locally by The Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri, is for people who are age 60 or older and have a household income at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty level.
That amounts to $16,237 annual income for a household of one, $21,983 for two, $27,729 for three or $33,475 for four.
People who qualify for the program will have a free monthly box of food delivered to their home by Catholic Charities.
CCCNMO is the charitable arm of the Jefferson City diocese.
On this day, it was working in partnership with Aging Best, a private, not-for-profit agency that operates senior nutrition centers in 19 counties in Central Missouri, to reach out to seniors they serve.
Hyder Apartments, managed by the Jefferson City Housing Authority, provides low-income housing for seniors. It stands within direct sight of the Shikles Center, the former La Salette Seminary chapel and gymnasium that CCCNMO recently purchased to create a hub of charitable work in the area.
Ms. Mutamba started working for Catholic Charities in January, when the agency established its food and nutritional services program, which will be linked to the food pantry that it plans to open at the renovated site.
“Our goal is to help serve people in Jefferson City who don’t have enough food for whatever reason — whether they’re low-income or just lost their job,” she said.
Catholic Charities anticipates doing that in tandem with other local food pantries, in order to help people who are not yet being helped.
“We plan on extending nutrition services out into the community,” said Ms. Mutamba, “which means the pantry is only part of our activities. We’ll be distributing food and also providing nutrition education.”
She said a high percentage of people who don’t have enough money to buy nutritional food also suffer from chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
“Down the road, we’ll be scheduling specific days when clients can come in and receive information about nutrition and physical activity,” she stated. “These are things that can help reduce the severity of chronic illnesses.”
Each month, Catholic Charities will provide recipes for items people regularly receive in the food boxes.
Ms. Mutamba pointed out that many people cannot afford nutritious food, including fresh fruits and vegetables and therefore do not know how to cook it properly.
When the transformation of the new home for Catholic Charities is complete, it will include a grocery-store-style food pantry, along with a demonstration kitchen for trying new recipes and learning how to prepare them.
“A big thing”
Ms. Jennings came to serve alongside Catholic Charities as an AmeriCorps member on June 1, shortly after completing her master’s degree in dietetics.
AmeriCorps is a network of national service programs aimed at addressing critical community needs.
She said this is exactly the kind of work she was looking forward to doing.
In learning about Catholic Charities and its mission, she’s come to understand that working there is less of a job and more of “something who you are as a person.”
She recognizes the biblical parallels to this important ministry.
“Jesus fed people who were hungry,” she said. “It was a big thing to Him, so I think it should be a big thing to us.”
“To the last person”
Ms. Mutamba said she’s excited about helping assess the needs and build the food and nutrition program from the ground up.
CCCNMO Director of Development and Outreach Cristal Backer helps raise money and apply for grants to expand the nutritional services offerings.
“We’re not doing this by ourselves,” Ms. Mutamba noted. “We’re working with other partners in a way that complements their work without duplicating it, so we can make sure the resources reach to the last person who needs help.”
She emphasized that Catholic Charities isn’t just for Catholics.
“It’s service to everybody in need,” she said. “And it’s not only Catholics who are employed at Catholic Charities. There are many other denominations represented. So it’s an interfaith community working together to address the needs of the people.”
They intend to target hunger in a way Jesus would have found suitable when He preached the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25): “You saw Me hungry, and you fed Me.”
“That’s exactly what we are trying to achieve here through Catholic Charities,” said Ms. Mutamba.
Anyone interested in supporting Catholic Charities’ Food and Nutrition Services program may visit cccnmo.diojeffcity.org/give, or make a check payable to CCCNMO and mail to P.O. Box 104626, Jefferson City, MO 65110.
For information about CCCNMO’s food and nutrition services, visit: