When You Share Your Bread

Dear Parish Family…

You may have not yet had the chance to listen to the interview I did on the Profiles of Endurance podcast with Bashir Chedrawee, the co-owner of Simone’s Kitchen, one of our fantastic local restaurants. In our conversation, he described how, in his youth, he had misunderstood the call that God had given him to be a healer. He had originally thought that the call was leading him to enter the field of medicine and become a doctor. But over time, God revealed that he was instead called to use the skills his parents had taught him as immigrant entrepreneurs from Lebanon to heal people through nutrition. His restaurant in Hope Plaza in West Coxsackie combines ancient recipes from his homeland with some variations to reflect today’s tastes and modern scientific nutritional knowledge. What results is some of the tastiest, freshest food available, which also incorporates all the best aspects of the world-renowned Mediterranean diet. As more and more of us eat this food on a regular basis instead of the fried, processed foods we have traditionally turned to as mainstays, our energy gradually improves, as does our overall health and well-being.

Everyone benefits from a healthy diet that incorporates lots of fresh vegetables, good grains, healthy fats and limits sugar. But as hard as that is for all of us to manage in the busyness of our American lifestyles, and with all the unhealthy convenience foods that are always beckoning us, it is even that much more challenging for the poor and disadvantaged.

Diane Hoffman, director of the food pantry at St. Patrick’s, reports that many of her clients have major health concerns and are completely unaware of how their nutritional choices can help them. Often she’ll receive donations of fresh local vegetables that her clients decline when offered because they don’t know how to cook with them.

As a result, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany has once again responded to the real needs of our community with a clever initiative that works. They have opened three of what they call “Food Farmacies” in our area that are designed to target this need with food that incorporates the freshness of a farm with the healing normally accomplished by medications.

When clients make an appointment to come to a Food Farmacy, they are greeted by specially-trained staff who offer nutritional counseling along with the food they receive. The staff inquire about what health concerns they are facing, such as diabetes or hypertension, and then offer them advice about how to manage those concerns through their food choices and offer practical, “you-can-do-this-for-dinner-tonight” tips that over time can help them make informed health-conscious and budget-friendly decisions long term.

A new location in Amsterdam has been added to the already-established program in Albany and in Schenectady (at Ellis Hospital). Mary Carpenter, the Catholic Charities official overseeing the new location, said, “We’ve seen it work. Just recently, a gentleman was referred to our Food Farmacy program. He worked with our staff and is now leading a healthier life. This approach works for people.”

When you are ever asked to make a donation or to offer support to Catholic Charities, you can feel 100% confident that your contribution is making a real difference in the lives of people in our community. No one is more responsive than Catholic Charities to the real and changing needs of people in our area. As an adopted child, I owe my name, my family and my life today to Catholic Charities, since I was adopted through their Community Maternity Services office.

Since needs are different in the country or in the mountains than they are in the city or the suburbs, Catholic Charities maintains regional offices that target the needs nearby each parish community. The Catskill and Hudson offices serve the St. Mary’s parish area. And the Tri-County offices of the Capital District serve St. Patrick’s and environs. But, honestly, because their slogan is “No Wrong Door,” you can call any Catholic Charities office and be directed to the help you need. To peruse some of the solutions Catholic Charities provides to the challenges our communities face, view their programs list.

God bless Catholic Charities and all those who sacrifice to make the Church’s life saving work possible.

A grateful Catholic Charities baby,
Father Scott