Rome Newsroom, Dec 4, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- The United States’ international aid agency has given a $900,000 grant to a Catholic group to provide food to people suffering from hunger in Italy because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Catholic Sant’Egidio community said it had increased its food donation projects with the help of the USAID funding and in collaboration with the International Union of Superiors General (UISG).

Speaking at a video press conference Thursday, Mauro Garofalo, head of Sant’Egidio’s international relations, said: “In this period of health and social emergency, Sant’Egidio has increased its street service, the distribution of food to the homeless, the elderly and vulnerable families.”

“The pandemic has had serious consequences on the Italian social and economic fabric,” he said, noting that, thanks to the contribution of USAID, Sant’Egidio has been able to double the number of meals it serves in its soup kitchens and the number of take-away meals it hands out.

“In addition, thousands of families were reached every month with the distribution of food parcels in a dozen neighborhoods in the Roman suburbs and in 25 cities in 15 Italian regions,” Garofalo said.

U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Callista Gingrich also spoke at the press conference. She highlighted the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the world, observing that in Italy more than 1.6 million people have been infected and 50,000 people have died.

“The United States and Italy enjoy a strong and friendly relationship, enriched by our shared history, values, and culture,” she said.

Gingrich said that the U.S. was honored to give the grant “to provide critical humanitarian assistance to those most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in Italy.”

The ambassador said that the project, which began in July, had been able to provide clothing and personal protection equipment to the homeless, the elderly, and other at-risk people.

“They have also provided counseling services and virtual medical assessments,” she said.

Garofalo added: “COVID-19 has highlighted the centrality of proximity and solidarity networks, which are even more essential today to combat the loneliness and isolation of many people.”

He said that the widespread presence of Sant’Egidio in Italy had allowed the group to respond quickly to increased needs.

Sr. Patricia Murray, IBVM, the executive secretary of the UISG, said she had been “very touched by the testimony of so many elderly nuns, whose lives have been completely changed by COVID-19.”

“They don’t live in a protected situation, but they share the same fears and anxieties as everyone,” she said. “They draw on their deep faith in Christ and depend on the generosity of others to help the poor personally and as a community.”

“I express deep gratitude to those who have worked to support our congregations and ensure that our convents are safe places at this time, especially for those who are elderly and frail.”

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