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From Our Editors
While volunteering to serve dinner at his local soup kitchen in 1967, John Van Hengel met the woman who would spark the idea for the nation's first food bank. According to the Washington Post, she fed her 10 children using soup kitchens and the cast-offs she found in grocery-store dumpsters, but suggested that a place where people could deposit and withdraw food—like a bank—would be ideal. With help from St. Mary's Basilica, Van Hengel created St. Mary's Food Bank Alliance, which began accepting donations from individuals and companies with food surpluses and distributing those through food pantries, soup kitchens, and other charities. The concept spread across the country, and then the world.
Today St. Mary’s annually distributes nearly 70 million pounds of food to its partner agencies across an 81,000-square-mile service area. These meals go to people of all ages, ranging from homebound seniors to children in more than 80 after-school programs. In addition to its food network, St. Mary’s prepares food boxes to directly feed hungry families during temporary crises and trains people for jobs in the culinary arts in its Community Kitchen program.