Watch CBS News

Catholic Charities volunteers hand out hundreds of free meals in Harlem on Holy Thursday

Cardinal Dolan helps hand out food for Holy Thursday
Cardinal Dolan helps hand out food for Holy Thursday 02:32

NEW YORK -- Catholic leaders gathered and distributed free meals to families in Harlem for Holy Thursday. 

Roughly 250 boxes of food were handed out before noon. The whole endeavor required dozens of volunteers. 

Catholic Charities, which organized the giveaway, said the number of people struggling since the pandemic started is climbing because of record-high food prices. 

People waited in line for hours outside St. Joseph of the Holy Family Church. 

"I got here like 4 o'clock," said Pauline Pope, one of dozens who lined up before dawn. 

"It's hard for me because I'm alone and then the rent raised, the food's raised," said Lizza Oliver. 

Some in the community said, between pandemic recovery and inflation, they were hit with a double whammy. 

"During the pandemic we lost our job. We worked for the Roosevelt Hotel and they just closed down," said Ralph Guadalupe. "Now we're struggling. Look, we're in a food line to get food just so we can feed our families. Look at how long this line is." 

"The need has definitely increased for many of the clients that we serve throughout our various pantries. One, because of food inflation. People are still trying to get back to work," said Lakisha Morris, director of operations for Catholic Charities. 

For some, the tough times mean stretching what little they have. 

"Eggs and meat. I see the prices of the meat is going up a lot too," another person in line said. "I feel like I'm eating more soup now than anything." 

More expensive items like chicken and eggs are not usually part of the weekly food distribution. They're dependent on funding and reserved for special holidays like Easter.

Community members also received a blessing from Cardinal Timothy Dolan for Holy Thursday, which is known to Catholics for marking the Last Supper and the Washing of the Feet. 

"This is the Last Supper, with Jesus at a meal with his disciples, and also giving us that brilliant example of washing the feet of his 12 apostles, which is the act of a humble servant and slave. So we want to be humble servants to the great people of this community," said Dolan. 

That's the lesson some young volunteers learned. 

"It's good to be able to help people out," said volunteer Blaise. 

"To be able to help people who really need the food," said volunteer Lillianna. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Catholic Charities has served nearly 11 million meals at pop-up pantries across New York City. They're always accepting donations and new volunteers. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.