“Blessed is the Lord, that we have food to eat,” says Graciela, a woman who came to the United States from Peru more than 20 years ago. Just a few months ago, Graciela discovered Food Force, an emergency food pantry located in Painesville and operated by Catholic Charities of Lake County Emergency Assistance Services department. Graciela says, “This place has helped me a lot. And not just me. A lot of people. I see that a lot of people come. It helps us all.”
Graciela, age 82, lives with a woman who has four children. The items provided by Food Force allow her to prepare meals for everyone in the home. “This is not unusual,” says site director Roger Himmelright. “The Hispanic culture in the community of Painesville is large and important. There are many big families in small living conditions. Some of the grandmothers are feeding families of 10 to 20 people a day, so I go out of my way to provide staples of dried beans and rice, and whatever I can for them.”
Before the pandemic, Food Force served 1,000 to 1,500 people each month by providing an emergency supply of food. This number has increased dramatically since the beginning of the pandemic as more people face job loss and other hardships. Last year, Catholic Charities in conjunction with Catholic Hunger and Shelter Network served a total of 3.5 million meals through 28 food pantries, 17 hot meal programs, and seven shelter sites throughout the eight-county Diocese of Cleveland.