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When Did We See You Hungry?


Greg-Kep-smallBy Gregory Kepferle, CEO
Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County

The child looks straight at you with sad eyes and an empty bowl in her hands. The man sits hunched over on a street corner with a cardboard sign  “Hungry. Please help.” The youth in the after-school program stuffs stolen snacks into her backpack to take home and feed her family. The middle school youth trashes a schoolroom. A young woman hops out of a white paneled van in a rough neighborhood, dressed to attract attention from men willing to pay for sex. An elderly woman cuts in line to get to the free hot meal sooner.

Every day we see images of hunger. Some we recognize as hunger. Others we don’t. The ad from the international nonprofit asking for funds to help hungry children – we get it. The man on the corner – maybe we judge and question whether he is really hungry or needs a drink or something else, like housing and mental health care. The youth who steals food, we may judge as a thief until we find out her parents are working two jobs both at minimum wage and they don’t earn enough to feed their family every day because they are paying for the rent that’s just been raised. The youth trashing the school room may be hungry not for food but for attention, a present parent, or simply love. The young woman in the van may be hungry to survive. And the senior in the food line remembers real hunger from her time as a starving refugee and believes if you don’t push for yourself, there won’t be enough.

At Catholic Charities, we feed hungry people every day.  Last year staff and volunteers cooked and served 123,624 hot meals for seniors, distributed 16,464 bags of food and tended four community gardens where people were able to feed themselves. We also fed thousands of children in our after-school programs and families through food pantries at our Charities Housing sites. Throughout the diocese this is multiplied by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and parish food pantries.

At Catholic Charities, we also feed those hungry for love and attention and meaning in their lives, by being role models, tutors and caring adults.

What is the hunger that you see around you and how are you being called to respond? As theologian Frederick Buechner wrote in Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

We invite you to join us at Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County and find your deep gladness in feeding the hungry right here in Santa Clara County. To find out more, to donate or to volunteer please visit