Mary Kate Carofano, chief development officer at the Connecticut Food Bank (CFB), wants everyone to understand that hunger is a problem in all corners of Connecticut. "Either we don’t want to believe it," she says, "or we are too busy living our own lives to realize that one in every eight people in Connecticut struggles with hunger, and one in six children is unsure of if, when, and where they will get their next meal."
While she was a student here, a Sacred Heart service project in the Bronx was a turning point for Mary Kate. "One of the Sisters I looked up to was going and suggested I sign up. It was by far the best decision I could have made," she says. "I knew then that I wanted to become more involved with community outreach."
After obtaining her degree in sociology at Albertus Magnus College, Mary Kate undertook roles in development and management in the non-profit sector, including positions with the American Cancer Society, the National Kidney Foundation, and the Arthritis Foundation. At Connecticut Food Bank, she is responsible for individual and major giving, corporate development, special events, volunteer oversight, school-based programming, and the organization's communications and marketing initiatives.
Since much of Mary Kate's work involves direct fundraising—CFB raised more than eight million dollars last year—her friends and family often wonder how she asks people for money every day. "My answer is simple," she says. "I don't ask people for money. I ask that they become involved in our mission. How can anyone say no to providing essential food to those in need?" She notes that 42 percent of food-insecure families in CFB's six-county service area do not receive federal food assistance such as SNAP (food stamps), free or reduced school meals, or WIC (the supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children) because they earn more than the qualifying income limit."But," she points out, "these are our neighbors who are too often torn between paying the utility bill or the rent, and putting food on the table."
Volunteers are central to CFB's mission and, under Mary Kate's leadership, the volunteer base has grown in the last year to over five thousand individuals—many of whom have connections to Sacred Heart.
Mary Kate's connection to Sacred Heart remains deep. "The Apostles of the Sacred Heart are members of my extended family," she says. "They taught and modeled compassion. They taught me to give without want, and to love without judgment. Their door is always open. In helping to feed the hungry, I carry the lessons of Sacred Heart in my work every day."