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An annual food collection is looking to replenish a crucial network of community food cupboards that have seen “a continued increase” in clients.

Sponsored by archdiocesan Nutritional Development Services (NDS), the Lenten One-Can Meal Food Drive, provides both in-person and online donation options available from now through March 30.

As in previous years, the agency will partner with schools throughout the archdiocese to gather canned meats, soups and beans.

Participants can also select items on the YouGiveGoods platform for purchase and delivery to NDS.

For close to 50 years, the agency has been countering hunger in the five-county archdiocesan area by operating federally funded child nutrition programs and a privately supported network of food cupboards.

Nowadays, those sites “are seeing many new first time clients because of the pandemic,” since “more people are out of work and in need,” said Denise Hopkins, administrator of the NDS Community Food Program.

According to national hunger nonprofit Feeding America, some 50 million may experience food insecurity as a result of COVID.

Defined as a household’s inability to provide sufficient food to ensure its members to live a healthy, active life, food insecurity results from complex and interrelated factors. Loss of employment, illness, and unexpected automotive and home repairs can all plunge families into economic distress, forcing them to choose between paying bills or buying groceries.

For NDS clients, “the items most requested at food cupboards are proteins, such as canned tuna, salmon, chicken and sardines,” Hopkins said.

Canned meals such as “ravioli, beef stew, spaghetti and meatballs” are in demand as well, she added.

The drive, which was launched in the mid-1980s, netted some 18,000 pounds of food last year, and clients are counting on donors to come through once again, said Hopkins.

She added that a director at one outreach supported by NDS recently described the agency’s community food program as “a blessing to many.”

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To organize a collection for the NDS Lenten One-Can Meal Food Drive at your parish, contact Denise Hopkins at dhopkins@ndsarch.org. To donate directly online, visit the NDS page on YouGiveGoods.