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Feeding the Hungry Hearts


By Gregory Kepferle
CEO, Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County and President, Charities Housing Development Corporation

“Everybody has a hungry heart.” Bruce Springsteen’s song captures the ache of loneliness, the lack of a place to call home, and the consequences of abandonment. It also expresses the hunger for spiritual fullness and for love that every human shares, rich or poor. And yet a physical hunger also stalks our land.

In this land of abundance how can there be hunger? According to Second Harvest, more than 1 in 4 residents of Santa Clara County are at risk of hunger. At Catholic Charities we see many of these same people every day. They are not just people who are homeless living on the streets. The hungry include people like Maria and Tom, who are seniors living on fixed incomes whose rents have increased–again, or Antonio and Teresa, children from low-income families in our after-school program, or George and Carlos, formerly incarcerated adults who can’t find work.

Catholic Charities addresses poverty by reducing situational poverty, preventing generational poverty, and alleviating chronic poverty. While we often talk of providing “a hand up” to reduce poverty, what many people may not know is the extent that Catholic Charities helps alleviate the conditions of chronic poverty for those who are hungry. We don’t usually talk about our role in alleviating hunger. What is the impact of a hot meal to a hungry person? Last year Catholic Charities prevented 10,000 people from going hungry. We fed over 10,000 people from seniors, to children, to individual adults and families at 40 different sites, distributing more than 280 tons of food, and serving more than 440,000 meals.

But it is not enough to feed the body; at Catholic Charities we also nourish the heart. When immigrant moms gather to learn English, people with disabilities gather to enjoy a social outing, citizens returning from incarceration meet in mental health support groups, or community groups meet to improve their neighborhoods, most of the meetings include food. Even more important than the food is sharing the human dignity of each person present made in the image and likeness of God. In our listening and our sharing insights while honoring the wisdom of the people we serve, we truly are nourishing hearts, filling them with hope and compassion.

At Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County, we need your help to feed the hungry hearts in our valley. To help feed the hungry, please visit,