Parishes, food pantries share key ingredients for making meal outreach efforts successful

December 15, 2020 at 6:52 p.m.
Parishes, food pantries share key ingredients for making meal outreach efforts successful
Parishes, food pantries share key ingredients for making meal outreach efforts successful


In the days before COVID-19, hunger relief throughout the  Diocese often included ... 

When statewide health mandates and diocesan safety regulations took effect in March, parishes as well as community food relief programs and charitable organizations scrambled to find innovative ways to keep meals available. Longtime partnerships became even more critical as many efforts moved from inside church halls and community food banks to outdoor take out, grab-and-go and home delivery to meet the growing need.

With weeks of uncertainty turning into months, parishes and their community partners have ramped up their response, continuing to work together to feed the increasing number of individuals and families who are struggling to put food on the table due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Following are examples of how combining efforts for the wellbeing of others can be a light in the darkness during uncertain times – and some recipes cooked with love that could warm a table in your home, too.

Casseroles for the Hungry, St. Charles
Borromeo, Cinnaminson / Catholic Charities’ Burlington County Community Services

Homemade by members of St. Charles Borromeo Parish, the casseroles are a popular staple of the now-weekly food distribution in Catholic Charities’ Burlington food pantry, one of three throughout the Diocese. 

It’s a good example of the creative ways local parishes “pitch in to address the needs of those who are hungry,” said Richard Ferreira, director of Catholic Charities Burlington and Mercer Community Services.

One of several outreach programs in St. Charles Borromeo that address food insufficiency, Casseroles for the Hungry provides the opportunity for clients to choose from a wide range of frozen dishes. Many of the dishes are treasured family recipes, while others – including the one below – come from a collection of tasty recipes with interchangeable ingredients provided by Catherine Weir, the ministry’s coordinator.

Beef Noodle Casserole

Ingredients:

• 12 ounces egg noodles, uncooked

• 2 tsp. olive oil

• 1 ¼ lbs. lean ground beef

• 1 onion, finely chopped

• 2 tsp. minced garlic

• salt and pepper to taste

• 16 ounces canned tomato sauce

• 15 ounce can petite diced tomatoes, drained

• 2 tsp. Italian seasoning

• 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

• 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

• cooking spray

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cook egg noodles according to package directions. While the noodles are cooking, heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat.

Add the ground beef to the pan and cook for 4-5 minutes, breaking up the meat with a spatula. Add the onion and garlic to the pan for an additional 5 minutes, or until onion has softened and beef is cooked through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Add the tomato sauce, tomatoes and Italian seasoning to the beef and stir to combine. Drain the noodles and add to the pan with the beef; toss to combine.

Pour the beef and noodle mixture into a 9x13-inch baking pan coated with cooking spray and top with cheddar cheese. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

To volunteer, call the parish at 856-829-3322, call Weir at 856-904-8632 or email [email protected]. The next casserole drop-off day at the parish is Dec. 10.

Simon’s Soup Kitchen, St. Junipero Parish, Seaside Park

Simon’s Soup Kitchen, based in Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church parish center in Seaside Heights, was founded 17 years ago by a small group of members from Knights of Columbus Council 8145. Over the years, it grew to become a community-based nonprofit, serving a combined total of about 300 on Tuesdays and Fridays.

In the past, clients enjoyed fellowship along with the food inside the parish center, said executive director John Salemi. But due to COVID-19 restrictions, the meals are currently served to-go style starting at 5 p.m. Some of the 200 volunteers distribute to-go bags filled with homemade soup or chili, a complete entree, dessert and a piece of fresh fruit to hundreds of people. “It’s more than a soup kitchen,” Salemi said. “Our doors and hearts are open to all in need of a hot meal.”

Chicken Teriyaki with Asian Broccoli, Serves 6

Ingredients:

• 3 chicken quarters – thigh and leg

• 1 cup Teriyaki sauce

• salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees; place chicken quarters in roasting pan; season with salt and pepper and place in the oven uncovered for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and cover with Teriyaki sauce and cook for 15 minutes longer, then remove from oven, divide legs and thighs into two pieces each.

Asian Broccoli

  1 large head broccoli

  1 tsp. chopped, fresh garlic

  olive oil, salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Cut raw broccoli into bite-size pieces; warm oil in a frying pan until hot, then add garlic and salt and pepper, toss until broccoli is well covered.

Serve with rice or fried rice.

To contact Simon’s Soup Kitchen call: 732-270-5941 or email [email protected]

For safety reasons, new volunteer opportunities are canceled at the present time, but contributions are welcome.

Ken’s Kitchen, St. Mary Parish, Barnegat

Based in St. Mary Parish, Ken’s Kitchen was widely known for its free Thursday social and educational lunch program in the parish center. Before the pandemic struck, as many as 500 people were likely to turn out. But when COVID-19 made indoor gathering impracticable, Ken’s Kitchen expanded the home delivery part of its operation.

On Thursdays, the number of meals delivered to homes around the greater Barnegat-Manahawkin area is steadily increasing as the need continues to grow. “We’re up to 180 home deliveries weekly now,” said John Donato. He coordinates Ken’s Kitchen along with his wife, Ro, and parishioner Ro Sevean, who supervises the logistics of home delivery. The homestyle meals are prepared and delivered by teams of volunteers. “There is quite a need for the food,” Sevean said. “Some people are totally isolated and really hurting.”

Meatloaf adapted from Ken’s Kitchen, Serves 6

Ingredients:

• 1 ½ lbs. ground beef (80% lean/20% fat)

• 1 egg

• 1 onion, chopped

• 1 cup milk

• 1 cup crushed croissant crumbs

• salt and pepper to taste

Directions for Meatloaf: Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the beef, egg, onion, milk and croissant crumbs and salt and pepper. Place in a lightly greased 9x13-inch loaf pan and bake for one hour. Serve with brown gravy and mashed potatoes.

Directions for croissant breadcrumbs: Spread leftover croissants on a baking sheet and bake until crisp at 400 degrees. Tear toasted croissants into small pieces and place them in a blender or food processor and pulse lightly for coarse crumbs.

Those who need home delivery may call the parish office at 609-698-5531 or Email Ro Sevean at [email protected].  At this time, volunteer opportunities are canceled because of COVID-19, but donations are accepted.

Loaves and Fishes, Trenton

Based in Trenton’s St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, the Loaves and Fishes food outreach has been meeting the needs of those with food insecurities in the greater Trenton area for more than four decades. Because of the pandemic,

Loaves and Fishes has moved its twice monthly luncheons from a sit-down format in the cathedral’s dining hall to take-out on its sidewalk.

Since then, on the last two Saturdays of the month, some 300 to 400 people come by between 9 and 11 a.m. for take-away packages that include a protein, starch, vegetable, beverage and dessert. Barbara Cagney, the program’s volunteer coordinator, said those supporting the organization with fundraising and elbow grease include faithful from 10 parishes in the Diocese as well as Knights of Columbus Councils and Catholic schools. They prepare, set up and serve the food when it’s their turn, hand out donated items and take care of the cleanup, too, she noted.

Rotisserie Chicken with Pasta and Basil

• 1 rotisserie chicken

• 1 large can petite diced tomatoes

• 1 pound penne pasta

• ½ cup olive oil

• 3 cloves minced garlic

• ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

• 1 cup fresh basil, chopped

• salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Skin the chicken completely, remove all bones and cut the meat into small pieces. Place in a large bowl and set aside.

In a saucepan, sauté olive oil, garlic and basil for two minutes. Do not brown. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper and simmer for 15 minutes.

Cook the pasta according to package directions and drain, reserving one cup of pasta water to add if needed. Add the pasta to the chicken and tomato sauce and toss well.

Sprinkle generously with Parmesan cheese and serve hot with Italian bread and a tossed salad.

At this time, new volunteers are not being sought for Loaves and Fishes. Donations are welcome. Checks made out to Loaves and Fishes may be sent to St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, 149 N. Warren Street, Trenton, NJ, 08608.


Related Stories

In the days before COVID-19, hunger relief throughout the  Diocese often included ... 

When statewide health mandates and diocesan safety regulations took effect in March, parishes as well as community food relief programs and charitable organizations scrambled to find innovative ways to keep meals available. Longtime partnerships became even more critical as many efforts moved from inside church halls and community food banks to outdoor take out, grab-and-go and home delivery to meet the growing need.

With weeks of uncertainty turning into months, parishes and their community partners have ramped up their response, continuing to work together to feed the increasing number of individuals and families who are struggling to put food on the table due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Following are examples of how combining efforts for the wellbeing of others can be a light in the darkness during uncertain times – and some recipes cooked with love that could warm a table in your home, too.

Casseroles for the Hungry, St. Charles
Borromeo, Cinnaminson / Catholic Charities’ Burlington County Community Services

Homemade by members of St. Charles Borromeo Parish, the casseroles are a popular staple of the now-weekly food distribution in Catholic Charities’ Burlington food pantry, one of three throughout the Diocese. 

It’s a good example of the creative ways local parishes “pitch in to address the needs of those who are hungry,” said Richard Ferreira, director of Catholic Charities Burlington and Mercer Community Services.

One of several outreach programs in St. Charles Borromeo that address food insufficiency, Casseroles for the Hungry provides the opportunity for clients to choose from a wide range of frozen dishes. Many of the dishes are treasured family recipes, while others – including the one below – come from a collection of tasty recipes with interchangeable ingredients provided by Catherine Weir, the ministry’s coordinator.

Beef Noodle Casserole

Ingredients:

• 12 ounces egg noodles, uncooked

• 2 tsp. olive oil

• 1 ¼ lbs. lean ground beef

• 1 onion, finely chopped

• 2 tsp. minced garlic

• salt and pepper to taste

• 16 ounces canned tomato sauce

• 15 ounce can petite diced tomatoes, drained

• 2 tsp. Italian seasoning

• 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

• 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

• cooking spray

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cook egg noodles according to package directions. While the noodles are cooking, heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat.

Add the ground beef to the pan and cook for 4-5 minutes, breaking up the meat with a spatula. Add the onion and garlic to the pan for an additional 5 minutes, or until onion has softened and beef is cooked through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Add the tomato sauce, tomatoes and Italian seasoning to the beef and stir to combine. Drain the noodles and add to the pan with the beef; toss to combine.

Pour the beef and noodle mixture into a 9x13-inch baking pan coated with cooking spray and top with cheddar cheese. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

To volunteer, call the parish at 856-829-3322, call Weir at 856-904-8632 or email [email protected]. The next casserole drop-off day at the parish is Dec. 10.

Simon’s Soup Kitchen, St. Junipero Parish, Seaside Park

Simon’s Soup Kitchen, based in Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church parish center in Seaside Heights, was founded 17 years ago by a small group of members from Knights of Columbus Council 8145. Over the years, it grew to become a community-based nonprofit, serving a combined total of about 300 on Tuesdays and Fridays.

In the past, clients enjoyed fellowship along with the food inside the parish center, said executive director John Salemi. But due to COVID-19 restrictions, the meals are currently served to-go style starting at 5 p.m. Some of the 200 volunteers distribute to-go bags filled with homemade soup or chili, a complete entree, dessert and a piece of fresh fruit to hundreds of people. “It’s more than a soup kitchen,” Salemi said. “Our doors and hearts are open to all in need of a hot meal.”

Chicken Teriyaki with Asian Broccoli, Serves 6

Ingredients:

• 3 chicken quarters – thigh and leg

• 1 cup Teriyaki sauce

• salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees; place chicken quarters in roasting pan; season with salt and pepper and place in the oven uncovered for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and cover with Teriyaki sauce and cook for 15 minutes longer, then remove from oven, divide legs and thighs into two pieces each.

Asian Broccoli

  1 large head broccoli

  1 tsp. chopped, fresh garlic

  olive oil, salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Cut raw broccoli into bite-size pieces; warm oil in a frying pan until hot, then add garlic and salt and pepper, toss until broccoli is well covered.

Serve with rice or fried rice.

To contact Simon’s Soup Kitchen call: 732-270-5941 or email [email protected]

For safety reasons, new volunteer opportunities are canceled at the present time, but contributions are welcome.

Ken’s Kitchen, St. Mary Parish, Barnegat

Based in St. Mary Parish, Ken’s Kitchen was widely known for its free Thursday social and educational lunch program in the parish center. Before the pandemic struck, as many as 500 people were likely to turn out. But when COVID-19 made indoor gathering impracticable, Ken’s Kitchen expanded the home delivery part of its operation.

On Thursdays, the number of meals delivered to homes around the greater Barnegat-Manahawkin area is steadily increasing as the need continues to grow. “We’re up to 180 home deliveries weekly now,” said John Donato. He coordinates Ken’s Kitchen along with his wife, Ro, and parishioner Ro Sevean, who supervises the logistics of home delivery. The homestyle meals are prepared and delivered by teams of volunteers. “There is quite a need for the food,” Sevean said. “Some people are totally isolated and really hurting.”

Meatloaf adapted from Ken’s Kitchen, Serves 6

Ingredients:

• 1 ½ lbs. ground beef (80% lean/20% fat)

• 1 egg

• 1 onion, chopped

• 1 cup milk

• 1 cup crushed croissant crumbs

• salt and pepper to taste

Directions for Meatloaf: Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the beef, egg, onion, milk and croissant crumbs and salt and pepper. Place in a lightly greased 9x13-inch loaf pan and bake for one hour. Serve with brown gravy and mashed potatoes.

Directions for croissant breadcrumbs: Spread leftover croissants on a baking sheet and bake until crisp at 400 degrees. Tear toasted croissants into small pieces and place them in a blender or food processor and pulse lightly for coarse crumbs.

Those who need home delivery may call the parish office at 609-698-5531 or Email Ro Sevean at [email protected].  At this time, volunteer opportunities are canceled because of COVID-19, but donations are accepted.

Loaves and Fishes, Trenton

Based in Trenton’s St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, the Loaves and Fishes food outreach has been meeting the needs of those with food insecurities in the greater Trenton area for more than four decades. Because of the pandemic,

Loaves and Fishes has moved its twice monthly luncheons from a sit-down format in the cathedral’s dining hall to take-out on its sidewalk.

Since then, on the last two Saturdays of the month, some 300 to 400 people come by between 9 and 11 a.m. for take-away packages that include a protein, starch, vegetable, beverage and dessert. Barbara Cagney, the program’s volunteer coordinator, said those supporting the organization with fundraising and elbow grease include faithful from 10 parishes in the Diocese as well as Knights of Columbus Councils and Catholic schools. They prepare, set up and serve the food when it’s their turn, hand out donated items and take care of the cleanup, too, she noted.

Rotisserie Chicken with Pasta and Basil

• 1 rotisserie chicken

• 1 large can petite diced tomatoes

• 1 pound penne pasta

• ½ cup olive oil

• 3 cloves minced garlic

• ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

• 1 cup fresh basil, chopped

• salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Skin the chicken completely, remove all bones and cut the meat into small pieces. Place in a large bowl and set aside.

In a saucepan, sauté olive oil, garlic and basil for two minutes. Do not brown. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper and simmer for 15 minutes.

Cook the pasta according to package directions and drain, reserving one cup of pasta water to add if needed. Add the pasta to the chicken and tomato sauce and toss well.

Sprinkle generously with Parmesan cheese and serve hot with Italian bread and a tossed salad.

At this time, new volunteers are not being sought for Loaves and Fishes. Donations are welcome. Checks made out to Loaves and Fishes may be sent to St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, 149 N. Warren Street, Trenton, NJ, 08608.

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