Working Together to Feed the Poor

Three Programs at St. Lucie Parish, Port St. Lucie, Florida

Feeding those in need has become an everyday habit at St. Lucie Parish in Port St. Lucie, Florida. For more than a decade, the parish has sponsored a soup kitchen that has grown to the point where it now serves more than 300 hot meals every Thursday.

But two other ministries continue to grow as well. Volunteers for the parish’s Bread Ministry head for the grocery store each day before dawn to collect day-old bread and other food items that can no longer be sold. These food items are then distributed to soup kitchens and food pantries in the Port St. Lucie and Fort Pierce areas.

And on the last weekend of every other month, parishioners and other donors fill a rented truck with boxes and bags of beans and rice. The Rice and Beans volunteers then drive to the Lake Okeechobee area in inland Florida and distribute the contents to migrant workers and other poor people in Indiantown and Pahokee.

“All of these are programs that everyone can participate in – by donating food, money, and especially by praying for the programs and those we serve,” said Friar Mark Szanyi, pastor of St. Lucie Parish. “With the Bread Ministry, every morning the people are there at 5am sorting out the food and preparing to distribute it. It’s not just bread – they get cakes, pies, cookies, and vegetables too. We use some of it at our soup kitchen, but it really helps the other programs.

“A parish group called the San Damiano men rent the truck for the Rice and Beans program, and we fill it every month. We always collect at least two tons of rice and beans, but we have collected as much as four tons.”

Friar Mark says the generosity of the parishioners is responsible for the success of the programs.

“It’s amazing,” he said. “All of this work is completely funded by donations. This year we raised more than ever. We even receive enough in donations to cover the truck rental and gas.

“There are so many poor, so many people are struggling. These programs have just grown and grown.”


Friar Mark Szanyi presents flowers to Lourdes Alfonso, coordinator of the weekly Soup Kitchen team, whose dedicated service has helped the program grow. (Photo courtesy of Florida Catholic)

(This article originally appeared in The Messenger of St. Anthony.)