A small Catholic school in Napa, California is drawing on community support to run a weekly food pantry for its families and neighbors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Volunteers, led by the school board, have adapted Kolbe Academy & Trinity Prep— a K-12 school with just 105 students— into a food pantry for distribution every Wednesday.

Anna Hickey and Eric Muth— both alumni and school board members— helped to develop what they call the Agape Program, aiming to assist the school community spiritually and materially during the pandemic.

The pantry was able to serve more than 50 families on the first day it was open, April 22, Hickey and Muth told CNA.

After the first week, word spread quickly through the community.

“We contacted several local parishes who are now directing people with needs to our school,” Hickey said.

Teachers and families from the school have volunteered to help with food distribution— including one family who lined up to receive food, realized more help was needed, and put their food aside in order to volunteer for the rest of the day.

“As people hear about Agape, the generosity is now starting to match the need,” Hickey said.

For the first day of distribution, school board members bought a large amount of frozen chicken from a distributor. When they told the distributor it was for a food pantry, he donated nearly 700 additional pounds of steak, turkey, and chicken.

Hickey said the school thought their supply of meat would keep them well-stocked for several weeks, but the number of families seeking help turned out to be “overwhelming.”

Hickey and Muth hope to provide tuition assistance to needy families through the Agape initiative, so that families in need don’t find themselves forced to pull their children out of the Catholic school.

“Our Catholic schools are in trouble, and we really need to start seeing them as a mission,” Hickey said.

“Catholic education in our world today is a critical necessity. It’s not something that we should consider a luxury…if we want to change society, if we want to make sure that we have future pro-lifers, then we’d better make darn sure that we keep Catholic education going.”

Full story at Catholic News Agency.