An annual archdiocesan food collection is once again looking to alleviate hunger, one can at a time.

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.

The canned, non-perishable items will help to replenish NDS’s network of some 50 community cupboards, which became lifelines for thousands of area residents throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

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

Last year, NDS collected approximately 22,500 pounds of food through the One-Can drive, and archdiocesan schools and religious education programs were “standouts” among the campaign participants, said Denise Hopkins, administrator of the NDS Community Food Program.

“We could never collect as much as we do without the help of all of them,” she said.

Amid trends to “eat fresh and local,” canned foods still play a major role in countering food insecurity, she said.

“Canned foods last much longer than fresh, and they can be just as nutritious,” she said, adding that “greater variety and lower sodium levels” among canned items have sustained their appeal.

The items also proved vital under COVID protocols, since “canned food was not subject to the extra handling that fresh product was,” said Hopkins.

Along with non-perishables, NDS is also “sharing meats and produce with (its) bigger cupboards,” she said.

Both fresh and canned goods are needed: according to national hunger nonprofit Feeding America, some 38.3 million are facing hunger in the U.S., 11.7 million of them children.

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.

The task of ending hunger may seem overwhelming, but the One-Can-Meal Drive provides a concrete way for individuals, families, schools and parishes to make a real difference.

“We are grateful for the ongoing support from everyone, whether the collection is big or small,” said Hopkins.

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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.