With Memorial Day weekend in sight, an archdiocesan agency is gearing up to make this summer a healthy one for those facing food insecurity.

On May 15, archdiocesan Nutritional Development Services (NDS) kicked off its annual “Manna Sunday” food drive, with a goal to collect 80,000 pounds of non-perishable food items for the agency’s network of some pantries throughout the Greater Philadelphia region.

Among the sites are five cupboards operated by archdiocesan Catholic Social Services, five soup kitchens and numerous community outreach programs.


Those interested in supporting the campaign, which runs through May 31, can purchase healthy, non-perishable items online via YouGiveGoods at https://yougivegoods.com/ndsmanna2022.

For almost five decades, the Manna Sunday initiative — named for the edible substance God provided the Israelites during their 40-year journey in the desert (Ex 16:4-36) — has helped NDS to prepare for the “desert” of the summer months, when supplies at its pantries tend to thin with donors on vacation and schools closed.

“Summertime is always hard, because we don’t have the school (donations),” said Denise Hopkins, administrator of the NDS Community Food Program. “We really feel it.”

During the balance of the year, food drives from Catholic schools and parish religious education programs are “vital to (NDS’s) program,” making the off-season Manna drive even more crucial, she said.

The initiative also offers a chance to adjust the menu at the agency’s food cupboards, Hopkins added.

“During the summer, we always try to go with low sodium canned good items,” she said. “We don’t order as much canned soup, since people might not want to eat that in the summer, and we try to add a lot of canned fruit, such as mandarin oranges and peaches.”

Recently, the agency has received an increase in requests for canned beans – “pinto, garbanzo and black beans, which are high in fiber and protein,” Hopkins said.

As the warm weather continues, NDS is also looking to set up a number of produce stands, which she described as “a big draw” for grateful clients.

At the agency’s largest sites – and at archdiocesan senior centers — those fruits and vegetables will come with fresh “tilapia, chicken and ground turkey,” said Hopkins. “It’s a nice mixture of items.”

Although parish life tends to slow down in the summer, Hopkins said faithful can still find creative ways to support NDS’s mission, especially when donation drives are integrated into day camps and vacation Bible school.

One Montgomery County parish is assembling snack bags that NDS plans to distribute to local Catholic ministries such as Mother of Mercy House, St. Francis Inn and the Sisters of St. Joseph Welcome Center, all located in Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood.

Gardeners who find themselves with a bumper crop of tomatoes, zucchini and other fast growers can donate their excess produce to NDS, said Hopkins – and the agency, which has a dedicated full-time driver, will gladly pick it up.

“No matter how much they collect, we’ll come out and get it,” Hopkins said.

That level of service is part of NDS’s core values, she said.

“Clients know we’re going to provide them with what they need throughout the summer,” she said. “There’s not an NDS cupboard they’re going to visit where we won’t be able to help them. … They know they can count on us.”


To donate to archdiocesan Nutritional Development Services’ Manna Sunday campaign, visit agency online at YouGiveGoods.

To arrange pickup of a donation to NDS, contact Denise Hopkins, administrator of the NDS Community Food Program, at 215-895-3470 ext. 77823 or dhopkins@ndsarch.org.