Francis Fund Supports Culturally Relevant Food for South Philly Migrants and Refugees

bernardPhiladelphia, PA – Aquinas Center will receive $15,000 from the Francis Fund to make fresh, culturally relevant food available to immigrants and refugees in South Philadelphia. The Fund, a collaboration of the World Meeting of Families Hunger and Homelessness Committee and Project HOME, was established to concretely address issues of hunger, homelessness, and poverty in the Philadelphia region and to ensure the transformative effects of Pope Francis’ visit to the United States continue to be felt in underserved communities.

Aquinas Center was created in 2013 in the former convent of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in South Philadelphia, and has the mission to build unity in diversity, support learning, and inspire thoughtful action in order to respond to the changing needs of the neighborhood. The center will use the $15,000 for three main projects: purchasing culturally relevant food selections to supplement holiday meal distributions to local families; creating and distributing garden-at-home kits and training to encourage food-insecure families to grow food of their own; and making upgrades to the center’s kitchen to expand the existing program of nutrition and cooking workshops.

The project design arose out of awareness the problems of both hunger and food security in the South Philadelphia neighborhood where Aquinas Center is located. Lack of fresh food is a particular concern for the large and diverse immigrant and refugee population, who face extra hurdles in obtaining food that meets their cultural diet and food practices.

This three-pronged approach allows Aquinas Center to practice responsiveness in the form of the direct food donations, but also empowerment and community building through the garden kits and ongoing educational food and nutrition workshops. In this way they are able to have an immediate impact on hunger as well as work towards longer-term poverty alleviation.

The Francis Fund was founded in the weeks leading up to Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia to ensure that the Holy Father’s concern for the poor and marginalized would motivate real change in this region. Over 50 other organizations in the greater Philadelphia region, both faith-based and non-denominational, are receiving funding from the Francis Fund for a wide range of projects. In choosing recipients, the Fund was inspired by the Pope’s personal areas of compassion and concern. They prioritized projects which would build capacity for existing programs that serve people who are homeless or living in extreme poverty, that serve women who have been trafficked, or that provide healthy and nutritious food in food pantries.

In an address on Independence Hall in September, Pope Francis reminded immigrants that they “bring many gifts to [their] new nation,” and urged them to “never be ashamed of [their] traditions.” Thanks to the generosity of the Francis Fund, Aquinas Center will be able to work within the spirit of Pope Francis’ anti-poverty and anti-hunger missions, as well as continuing to respect and uplift the uniqueness and giftedness of individuals of all backgrounds

Aquinas Center is located at 1700 Fernon Street, Philadelphia, PA 19145.
To learn more about our community and mission, visit
To get involved with our different programs, contact or 267-928-4048.


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