Although the pandemic has put St. Mark’s Episcopal Church’s annual Chocolate Festival on hold this year, parishioners have stepped up in another creative way to combat hunger and food insecurity in our community. The Five Loaves, Two Fishes campaign will match each dollar given to five local hunger relief programs—up to $6,000—doubling the impact of donations to organizations straining under an increase in demand for their services.

“For more than 20 years, the St. Mark’s community has enjoyed raising thousands of dollars for local food pantries—while also having indulgent fun—at our Chocolate Festival,” said Rev. Suzanne Wade, rector at St. Mark’s. “The pandemic has put this event on hold, but the money we usually raise is needed more than ever. Our outreach team hopes these matching funds will encourage the broader community to support these important lifelines for those hardest hit by this relentless pandemic.”

The Five Loaves, Two Fishes Campaign will kick off on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 17, and end on Easter Sunday, April 4.

Money raised will be divided equally to benefit:

  • The Westford Food Pantry
  • Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry, serving Ayer, Shirley, Devens, Dunstable, Harvard, Groton, and Littleton
  • The Open Pantry in Lowell
  • St. Paul’s Soup Kitchen in Lowell
  • Merrimack Valley Interfaith Group family hunger relief program in Lawrence

Held every year around Valentine’s Day, the Chocolate Festival has traditionally supported the Westford Food Pantry and The Open Pantry in Lowell, with more than $50,000 donated over the past 20 years. Parishioners and local restaurants created indulgent chocolate treats for an all-you-can-eat buffet, open to participants who purchased an entry ticket. Additional money was raised through raffles and silent auction items.

St. Mark’s has offered longstanding support to both St. Paul’s Soup Kitchen—where for the past 20 years, parishioners have cooked and served a meatloaf dinner for around 100 people every month—and the Merrimack Valley Interfaith Group. In addition, more than 500 pounds of produce grown in St. Mark’s plot in the Westford Community Garden was donated to the Westford Senior Center in 2020.

The campaign is also being supported by another strong faith community, Trinity Chapel in Shirley, a partnership created with Rev. Wade stepping in as priest-in-charge following the retirement of Rev. Marsha Hoecker. Known as “The Little Church with a Big Heart,” Trinity Chapel has long supported the Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry in Ayer, as well as local school children through a healthy snacks program at the Lura White School in Shirley.

The name of the Five Loaves, Two Fishes campaign comes from story of Jesus feeding the 5,000, in which a young child offers his small lunch to Jesus to feed the multitude. The campaign will match gifts from the general public and multiply the impact of these donations, just as Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes to feed far more people than should have been possible.

You can donate to the Five Loaves, Two Fishes campaign via credit card or electronic bank transfer by visiting www.st-mark.org/give and choosing 5 Loaves, 2 Fishes from the drop-down menu. Or, you can donate via check mailed to St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 5 Loaves, 2 Fishes, 75 Cold Spring Road, Westford, MA 01886.

For more information, visit www.st-mark.org or call: 978-692-7849.