From the very beginnings of the Franciscan Order, concern for the poor and the outcast has been an important ministry of the Friars, the Poor Clares, and the Secular Franciscans. And this remains true today; the Franciscans Friars of St. Francis Church on W 31st St. in Manhattan, NYC, have provided food assistance for those who are homeless, and the poor who cannot leave their homes.
In 1930, during the depths of the Great Depression, the Franciscans started a breadline; distributing sandwiches and coffee to men who had no jobs, and no homes. The St. Francis Breadline continues today; every morning at 7:00 AM, the Friars and volunteers distribute sandwiches and fruit to the homeless. They also give a listening ear, a handshake, and a hug to those individuals whom the rest of society has written off.
In recent times, the Friars have become aware of another group of individuals who need food assistance, those poor persons who may not have enough money to buy the food they need, and because of health issues cannot leave their homes to go to food pantries. So they set up the program “Franciscans Deliver.”
They established a food pantry, and those in need contact them, and a grocery list is made up. The Franciscans and volunteers fill the orders and deliver them to the individuals’ apartments. Again, besides bringing groceries, the volunteers bring human contact, companionship; so that the shut-ins do not feel alone and abandoned.
There are many government and private programs that try to alleviate hunger in this country. And they do serve many needy people. But what I like about the Franciscan approach, is that they are not just addressing a physical hunger, but a social and spiritual hunger as well.