Much of Catholic Charities’ 21-county service area is made up of rural communities. These areas are often described as food deserts. With very few resources available, their struggle to feed families in need has become even greater during COVID-19.

To help alleviate the stress, Catholic Charities has provided 19,678 pounds of food to pantries in Linn, Jackson, Nemaha and Lyon counties. “When we think of disaster relief, we often think of natural disasters. These last few months has reminded us that disaster relief is so much more – it also includes threats to our health. Our ability to mobilize resources and volunteers to respond to this pandemic by supplying food to our rural communities has been just one way of answering the call to give generously,” says Camille Pickhinke, Parish and Community Outreach Coordinator.

The Linn County Health Department distributed the food through its recent COVID Recovery Food Drive. The drive-thru distribution drew 180 vehicles. Approximately 250 bags of food and basic necessities were given to 548 individuals.

Recent high school graduate Cole Cunningham was among the local volunteers eager to serve. He created a student-led group to help the county during the pandemic and recruited others to help with the food drive. “It was really great to give back to the community which has been there for me,” he said.

These rural communities have been very grateful for Catholic Charities and the generosity of those who have been supporting the organization through food donations. “Linn County is a better place because of the support of Catholic Charities,” shares one of the volunteers.

It’s in moments like this that we remember why we exist as an agency, says Camille, adding, “To be a beacon of help, hope and hospitality in times of unrest.”