According to the World Health Organization, more than 820 million people do not have enough to eat, and a variety of recent additional challenges are likely to increase these numbers in the year ahead. For example, in developing countries around the world, COVID-19, natural disasters and manmade conflict are producing market shortages and are likely to stoke already soaring inflation rates. As a result, poor families are finding it particularly hard to obtain food. In Haiti, for instance, nearly half the population is expected to face food insecurity this year.
These statistics are bleak, but the reality of experiencing this poverty firsthand is even more painful. As you visit the poorest communities of Haiti, Guatemala and elsewhere, you encounter boys and girls with distended bellies and sallow faces. It is heartbreaking to know they wake each day with sharp pangs of hunger and may have to contend with the life-threatening consequences of malnutrition for years to come.
As Catholics, we are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus — to serve the poor and share Christ’s compassion through life-transforming Works of Mercy. Many priests, religious sisters and laypeople have devoted their entire lives to nourishing the hungry in both body and soul, and we can help empower their important work!
At Cross Catholic Outreach, we support Church-based hunger relief missions in two ways:
Let’s take a look at the latter and explore how Cross Catholic Outreach sources, packs, ships and distributes nutritious meals to children, seniors and families in need. I also want to introduce one of our incredible ministry partners in Haiti and explain how you can take action to fight hunger around the world.
Cross Catholic Outreach receives its meal packs by donation from various sources, but each one contains a nutritionally balanced blend of three key components:
These meal packs, which we call Vitafood, are scientifically formulated to energize, strengthen and restore malnourished bodies to health.
Cade Fields-Gardner is a registered dietician who helped develop the formula for these meal packs. In a 2019 interview with our office, she explained, “Our objectives were to meet guidelines established by the World Health Organization. We wanted to fulfill as many of the objectives as we could, and that helped us get a good idea of what the ingredients should be — rice, soy for protein and flavor, and micronutrients. We also wanted to reduce overall sodium, make it packable, and ensure that the ingredients would be compatible when put into a pot.”
As noted by Fields-Gardner, the meals are easy to pack — so they are primarily packaged by volunteers at various food packing events. Cross Catholic Outreach’s Food Packing Events present a great opportunity for parishes, schools and groups to play a hands-on role in the fight against hunger. They also keep production costs low, ensuring that we can focus our resources on shipping the most meals to the most people in need.
Once the Vitafood meals are packed, they are placed in shipping containers and sent to developing nations around the world. Each shipping container holds about 45,360 packages of Vitafood, and each package of Vitafood contains approximately six servings. That means there are about 272,160 nutritious meals in every shipping container we send!
When the Vitafood reaches a port and clears customs, our in-country distribution partners receive and deliver the meals to a network of feeding programs, schools, elder care facilities and other ministries. Many of these ministries prepare the food on-site to feed the hungry, while others distribute the unprepared meal packs directly to families, allowing them to cook the food at home. Some ministries even provide nutrition education, instructing families on how to prepare their meal packs for the best results and flavor, using local herbs and seasonings.
This provision has been an answered prayer for many poor children and families in dire need of nutrition.
“I have seen incredible things happen,” said Fields-Gardner, “even for those suffering from severe malnutrition — children and pregnant or lactating women whom I’m pretty sure would have died within the month if [these meals] had not been there.”
The Haitian Resource Development Foundation (HRDF) is one of our hardworking distribution partners based in Haiti. It works to strengthen poor Haitian communities with immediate relief (such as food and health care), as well as long-term developmental support (such as education and economic opportunities). Cross Catholic Outreach supports this holistic approach to integral human development, and we strive to empower partners such as HRDF by providing the resources they need to be successful.
This support is especially helpful when difficult and unexpected circumstances arise. Following Haiti’s 7.2 magnitude earthquake in 2021, for example, we worked quickly to equip HRDF with Vitafood, medical supplies and tarps. With this support, HRDF was able to meet the most urgent needs of survivors and carry the light of Christ into an extremely dark and difficult situation.
Still, there is more work to be done. Consecutive years of below-average rainfall have hurt Haiti’s crops, and the ongoing economic crisis there has caused soaring inflation. Recurrent natural disasters, including hurricanes and earthquakes, further exacerbate an already dire situation. In the months ahead, Cross Catholic Outreach hopes to work with HRDF to provide families with hearty Vitafood meals, as well as medical care and other essential relief — but we can only accomplish that task with the help of friends like you!
Our network of distribution partners is poised to deliver relief for families in Haiti and around the world. To take action, these partners just need two critical resources: funding and shipments of food.
In Matthew 25, Jesus tells us, “I was hungry and you gave me food. … Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” By offering up your resources to feed the hungry, you are investing in the very life of Christ and heeding his command to love the poor.
Please stand with us to equip compassionate Catholic ministries with the tools they need to fill plates and hearts in Jesus’ name. God bless you!
Proceeds from this campaign will be used to cover any expenditures incurred through June 30, 2024, the close of our ministry’s fiscal year. In the event that more funds are raised than needed to fully fund the project, the excess funds, if any, will be used to meet the most urgent needs of the ministry.