By Devin Watkins
Catholic parishes and dioceses have teamed up with the Association of Food Banks of Colombia to help reduce hunger amongst the poor.
The Church’s local Caritas network has helped feed nearly 1.5 million people with more than 15 million kilos of foodstuffs.
Caritas Colombia swung into action in late March, when the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the country.
President Iván Duque declared a nationwide lockdown on 20 March, leaving millions stuck at home. As elsewhere, the number of food-insecure people rocketed.
As of Friday, there were nearly 44,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases in Colombia, with over 1,500 victims.
“In the midst of the pandemic, food banks have been of crucial importance in the Church’s work to assist vulnerable families,” according to Caritas Colombia. “The goal is to help reduce hunger among the poorest people in each church community.”
Donations to food banks have increased during the pandemic. Foodstuffs and hygiene kits are then delivered to local organizations, including Caritas offices, which distribute them to those most in need.
In the Archdiocese of Florencia, Archbishop Omar de Jesús Mejía Giraldo has set up a collection center where local merchants and regular people donate surplus food.
Donations range from a single pound of rice to a whole ton of food, according to the archdiocesan director of social ministry.
Another prime example is the Diocese of Cúcuta, which lies along the border with Venezuela. It alone has handed out more than 3.5 million food rations to the poor.
Local families also contribute to the “Divine Providence House”, which assists the numerous Venezuelans who cross the border in search of food, as well as local Colombians in need.
Over the past three years, the charity has helped thousands of people receive spiritual accompaniment, medical attention, and a balanced diet. Professional volunteers even offer free psychological and legal counseling services.
Love and teamwork
Caritas Colombia says its efforts to reduce hunger are made possible through the vast network of volunteers from all sectors of society.
“Delivering food aid is not only an example of love for others,” it says, “but also of solidarity and teamwork.”