Food Should Not Be an Either/Or Proposition

Food Should Not Be an Either/Or Proposition

“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
Hebrews 13:2-9

For many migrants, food is not a given. That harsh realization during the pandemic was the catalyst for the creation of Food Justice DMV (FJDMV). It began when an immigrant seeking asylum spent money to pay for transportation to an ICE check-in that could have been used for his family’s food. When local powerhouse, Denise Woods, learned of this, she gathered forces to create a mission to make sure that food security would not be an either/or proposition. In three years plus, FJDMV has delivered food justice “in a bag” to 720,994 neighbors and raised more than $1,327,529 for food, diapers and baby formula. Episcopal churches in the Diocese of Washington are strong supporters and provide precious space, financial backing and volunteerism as we live our faith in welcoming the stranger.

San Mateo parishioners preparing food boxes

Under Bishop Mariann’s leadership, the diocese provided financial backing during COVID which was a boost to this operation of kindness. Two Episcopal churches in the diocese continue to provide storage, delivery preparation, places of distribution and church member volunteers. Saint Stephen and the Incarnation on 16th Street NW in Columbia Heights opens their nave for packing and preparation on Thursday nights and for distribution on Saturday mornings. On Saturdays, food is consolidated and wheeled to waiting cars. Those cars are driven by volunteers who deliver to homes in DC/MD.

When the COVID tsunami struck, FJDMV envisioned supporting 200 migrant families. The original 200 families have shared this food hotline with their community over the past 3.5 years. As a result, FJDMV’s support has escalated to meet an ever-expanding inclusive group including more than 9,000 Black and Brown Latinx families. FJDMV delivers to those who have no transportation, are unhoused or homebound which is unique among most aid groups in the city. With these dramatic numbers increasing, the need is outstripping FJDMV’s capacity to deliver. Therefore, the search for funds and volunteers continues.

San Mateo in Hyattsville is one of the fastest-growing Episcopal churches in the country. Since August, San Mateo has had to reduce food distribution to families from twice monthly to only once. Currently, with the support of FJDMV and Grace, Silver Spring they provide food to over 200 families each month. San Mateo also serves as a distribution base for FJDMV with 22 Black and Brown Haitian, Nigerian and Latin community leaders unloading, sorting, bagging and distributing to more than 1,100 families. It is a scene of frenetic action as trucks come in with bags of rice and beans and foodstuffs, as well as crates of reclaimed fresh fruits and vegetables. Many hands pass on the bags and boxes to the next volunteer in a chain that is a life-line to those who might not otherwise eat. It does not fall on deaf ears, that several helping the operation have received food support in the past. Just as the last bags are filled, families arrive to pick up their “justice in a bag”. There is no short supply of gratitude.

Parishioners at Grace, Silver Spring packing bags of beans and rice

Grace, Silver Spring purchases beans and rice for about 100 families every month. They package these staples into smaller quantities, and deliver the packages directly to San Mateo. Grace Church parishioners have embraced this project and come ready each month with measuring cups in hand to make sure justice is truly served!

FJDMV includes critical maternal and infant health items such as diapers and formula in their deliveries. Christ Church, Kensington is participating with nearly 1,000 diapers delivered to FJDMV in one carload just last week. The Cathedral Scholars, a program for recruited DC high school students who the Cathedral helps to mentor in academics and other skill sets, have brought their muscle and spirit on Saturdays to load vehicles. Members of our churches and ministries volunteer including students who receive community service credit.

How do these operations continue their missions? With volunteerism, generosity of our community and a well-oiled machine of dedicated volunteer leadership. There are cracks in the system forming due to the skyrocketing cost of food and growing number of those in need. FJDMV finds itself navigating both of these difficult realities. San Mateo would like to restore their twice monthly distributions. Fr. Vidal Rivas estimates the beans and rice cost $1,125 for each distribution.
St. Stephen and the Incarnation's nave with boxes of food awaiting delivery
Food distribution has become a network of support for those without a safety net. For example, a newly arrived family in Maryland was in need of food. The mother’s due date was the day of her call of distress. A volunteer delivered food while another helped her with the information regarding Montgomery County’s Pregnancy and Postpartum Health Care coverage. Likewise, San Mateo has the pulse of its community with food distribution being a point of contact in their network of services which include a bi-monthly medical clinic.

This is how migrant support unfolds – by word of mouth and networks that link need with support systems in a new country. We have been given opportunities in this network to be part of the joyful welcoming of our new neighbors.

There are many other avenues and support groups to help our new arrivals. If interested, please contact:

The Washington National Cathedral Sanctuary Ministry supports the migrants in many capacities as well as sending out regular Action Alerts of actions that can be taken as well as giving and volunteer opportunities in the DC metro area. Contact us to learn more 

The Refugee Response Team of the Diocese meets bi-monthly to discuss local diocesan needs, actions and responses for our neighbors. Contact the Refugee Response Team to learn more 

Claudia Russell
Co-chair of the WNC Sanctuary Ministry

Sanctuary Ministry: Capital Area Immigrants Rights Coalition

Sanctuary Ministry: Capital Area Immigrants Rights Coalition

Please join us to learn about the important work of this nonprofit focused exclusively on providing legal services to immigrant children and adults who are at risk of detention and deportation. Michael Lukens, CAIR Coalition’s Associate Director will discuss how they are pivoting in response to the shifting needs of immigrant communities in the DMV. Taylor Rivera Stone, Volunteer Manager will present opportunities to volunteer and support their mission to ensure equal justice for all immigrants at risk of detention and deportation.

Sanctuary Ministry: Food aid for migrants

The Sanctuary Ministry is excited to host Jessica Cisneros, organizer with one of our key partner organizations, Migrant Solidarity Mutual Aid Network. This group has been the coordinating backbone of the generous DMV welcome provided to thousands of migrants arriving in buses from the southern frontier since last April. As the work of this coalition of community and faith groups transitions into resettlement, Jessica will update us on the need for food aid and the opportunities to help our new neighbors.

La diócesis recibe el premio de CARECEN por su Ministerio de la Esperanza

La diócesis recibe el premio de CARECEN por su Ministerio de la Esperanza

Bishop Mariann holding the Saul Solorzano Justice Award from CARECEN
Missioner Mildred Briones Reyes, CARECEN Exec. Director Abel Nuñez, Bishop Mariann
The delegation from EDOW at the awards banquet with Bishop Mariann on stage
“…Fui extranjero y me recibieron”.
Mateo 25:35

Cuando los autobuses llenos de migrantes cansados y hambrientos comenzaron a llegar al área metropolitana de Washington este verano, nuestras congregaciones, con la compasión que las caracteriza, respondieron rápidamente. Nuestra gente instaló centros de acogida en los salones parroquiales y en las naves, puso en contacto a personas y familias con los servicios sociales, proporcionó atención médica, localizó refugios y distribuyó ropa, zapatos y artículos de aseo a las personas, muchas de las cuales llegaron con muy pocos o ningún recurso. Juntos, como diócesis, alimentamos sus cuerpos y cuidamos sus almas.

El 27 de octubre, la Obispa Mariann y una delegación de líderes laicos y clero asistieron a la 41ª celebración anual de CARECEN para aceptar el Premio a la Justicia Saúl Solórzano, en nombre de la Diócesis Episcopal de Washington, otorgado en reconocimiento a esta importante labor.

Desde 1981, la misión de CARECEN ha sido fomentar el desarrollo integral de la población latina en el área de DC. El premio reconoce los logros de una organización sobresaliente que ha demostrado un trabajo distinguido y esfuerzos incansables para promover los derechos y la dignidad de los inmigrantes.

Nos sentimos profundamente honrados por este reconocimiento. Hacemos este trabajo y seguiremos haciéndolo – porque, como cristianos, Dios nos llama a acoger al extranjero. De hecho, Dios nos pide que amemos a nuestro prójimo como a nosotros mismos.

Si desea participar en este Ministerio de la Esperanza, por favor, póngase en contacto con la Rvda. Carol Coonrod y Elizabeth Terry en Santo Tomás, Dupont Circle o con el Rvdo. Vidal Rivas y Fátima Vásquez en San Mateo, Hyattsville.

The delegation from EDOW
A poster of CARECEN's 41st anniversary awards banquet
Bishop Mariann accepts the award on behalf of the diocese
Diocese Receives Award from CARECEN for Ministry of Hope

Diocese Receives Award from CARECEN for Ministry of Hope

The delegation from EDOW
Bishop Mariann holding the Saul Solorzano Justice Award from CARECEN
Missioner Mildred Briones Reyes, CARECEN Exec. Director Abel Nuñez, Bishop Mariann

“…I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.”
Matthew 25:35

When buses filled with tired and hungry migrants began arriving in the Washington Metro area this summer, our congregations, with characteristic compassion, were quick to respond. Our people set up welcome centers in parish halls and naves, connected individuals and families to social services, provided medical care, located shelter, and distributed clothing, shoes and toiletries to people, many of whom arrived with very few resources or none at all. Together, as a diocese, we fed their bodies and cared for their souls.

On October 27th, Bishop Mariann and a delegation of lay and ordained leaders attended the 41st annual celebration of CARECEN to accept the Saúl Solórzano Justice Award on behalf of the Episocpal Diocese of Washington, given in recognition of this important work.

Since 1981, CARECEN’s mission has been to foster the comprehensive development of the Latino population in the DC area. The award recognizes the accomplishments of an outstanding organization that has demonstrated distinguished work, and tireless efforts to promote the rights and dignity for immigrants.

We are deeply honored by this recognition. We do this work–and will continue to–because as Christians, God calls on us to welcome the stranger. In fact, God requires us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

If you would like to get involved in this Ministry of Hope, please contact the Rev. Carol Coonrod and Elizabeth Terry at St. Thomas’, Dupont Circle or the Rev. Vidal Rivas and Fatima Vasquez at St. Matthew’s/San Mateo, Hyattsville.

A poster of CARECEN's 41st anniversary awards banquet
Bishop Mariann accepts the award on behalf of the diocese
The delegation from EDOW at the awards banquet with Bishop Mariann on stage