A staff member and a volunteer give a new twist to their Emmaus ministries presentation

For the past few academic semesters, Emmaus staff member Breanna Mekuly and weekly volunteer Cindy Liotta, both Oblates with the Erie Benedictines, gave presentations to religion classes at Mercyhurst University on the topic of “Food Insecurity.”

This year, because of things they’ve heard and learned while working at the soup kitchen, Breanna and Cindy decided to redo their presentation. Rather than solely presenting what Emmaus Ministries does and why – as they had in the past – they decided to focus on why Emmaus exists: to fill in the gaps.

“Too many households living under the poverty line struggle to meet their basic needs – such as having enough nutritious food for three meals a day,” said Breanna. “Food insecurity is a growing concern, especially as the Trump administration continues to propose more cuts to the SNAP program.”

After talking with a few women at the food pantry and soup kitchen to better understand the struggles of underpaid working single mothers in Erie, Breanna and Cindy created a composite fictional single mother of two whom they named “Jane.” They explained to the Mercyhurst students that welfare is a great support to people like Jane, but there are gaps in the system. They presented Jane’s monthly budget – how much she gets paid from her part time job and what she gets in governmental assistance along with what she pays for rent, utilities, food, transportation, and childcare. “It’s almost impossible for Jane and her family to make it,” Breanna said, “and that’s the gap Emmaus helps to fill.”

For example, Emmaus is there to help Jane and her two children when the family’s food stamps run out at the end of the month or when Jane’s monthly income is just a few dollars above the cut off amount for receiving cash assistance from the County Assistance Office.

At Emmaus, we don’t only feed people falling through the economic cracks of society, we also must advocate for them by pressing for systemic change until the basic needs of all are met.

Visit the Emmaus Ministries web page to read this story and more.