Helping to feed the children this summer

Hundreds of children will benefit this summer due to a local church’s generosity through Operation Rice Bowl.

Denise Tillges, food shelf donations coordinator at Christ the King Catholic Church in Cambridge, explained each year during Lent the church participates in the Catholic Relief Services’ Operation Rice Bowl program.

Tillges explained Operation Rice Bowl has always emphasized the traditional Lenten disciplines of fasting, prayer and almsgiving.

“Our efforts allow our diocese to assist those who hunger and thirst for nourishment of body and soul in their everyday lives,” Tillges said. “In order to distribute the 25 percent retained locally each year from the Operation Rice Bowl collection, a grant application process has been prepared for use by the Diocese of St. Cloud. They specifically asked us to look for groups sponsoring programs that address hunger issues in our communities.”

After talking with Father James Hahn, Tillges approached Family Pathways and they submitted a grant application on April 4 requesting $3,000 to help fund their Supplemental Summer Lunch Program. On April 19, Family Pathways received its $3,000 check.

“This being our first year, having the opportunity to apply for these funds helped to make the program possible,” said Kathy Wills, manager of Family Pathways Basic Life Services. “We are so thankful to all for the grant. We thank the church for bringing this to our attention and sponsoring our participation. Without their sponsorship, the grant would not have been possible. Denise [Tillges] was great to work with. The entire church congregation should be proud of what they donated toward and should remember they are helping to feed children throughout the summer. We all should have a special spot to make sure children are fed.”

Wills explained the Supplemental Summer Lunch program gives to families with children, ages kindergarten through high school, a package of approximately 10 lunches and some snacks. Wills explained this helps parents with the additional cost of having their children home for the summer.

“Many of these families would have received free or reduced meals at school and this extra cost is a financial burden for many families,” Wills said. “It is meant to help replace meals lost that parents may qualify for at school.”

Tillges explained helping the community is a focus of Christ the King Catholic Church.

“We try to promote helping the community and giving back,” Tillges said. “We have food collection bins in the back of the church that we bring every week to the emergency food shelf, and put fillers in the church bulletin reminding people to donate. There is always a need in the community to get the food shelves stocked.”

Wills said the number served last year through the Supplemental Summer Lunch program was 459 families with 865 children receiving 7,537 pounds of food. These were only food packages given to kindergarten through high school age children.

Tillges said she wanted to share the news about the $3,000 grant with the community because it shows how you can make a difference.

“I wanted to share this with everyone because it is important to know that small efforts can make a big impact,” Tillges said. “As a result of this grant funding, there are a lot of kids in our community that will receive extra food this summer. I want people to know that there are opportunities out there to help. You just need to take action and if you can do it, do it.”

With school winding down this week, Wills wants to remind people the food shelves can always use donations.

“Donations are always welcome, and with the summer program, think of kid friendly donations such as macaroni and cheese, spaghettios, chicken noodle soup, beef ravioli, etc.,” Wills said. “Things kids can prepare in the microwave instead of cooking on the stove is very helpful. We will see the need going up through the summer. Kids being home is a financial burden for parents who may have received free and reduced meals. April and May starts us off  to seeing the need rise, which continues until December. There are no slower times now until the first of next year normally. It is just a matter of how fast the need will rise.”

Wills also wants to remind families to come to the food shelves if they need help.

“If individuals and families are struggling, come and see us,” Wills said. “Please put aside your embarrassment and pride, which is what this new face of hunger is—very proud people embarrassed they are in this situation. You did nothing wrong.

“Do not continue to live on just your savings or retirement if you cannot make it. We have seen too many times that people use these resources trying to avoid coming. All that happens is we see you eventually when savings are gone.  Stop and see what we may be able to help you with and what referrals are out there to help you get back on your feet. We are all in this together, working together,” Wills added.

For more information on the Cambridge Food Shelf call 763-552-3663 or visit