Yesterday, Catholic Charities distributed meals and grocery boxes to 800 food-insecure families in front of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. In addition to fresh produce and bourbon-glazed chicken, recipients got a package of peanut-butter, chocolate chip, and snickerdoodle cookies, courtesy of Great American Baking Show winner Brother Andrew Corriente.
A friar at Capuchin College, Corriente has long used his amateur culinary skills for service. In the pre-Covid era, part of his ministry involved providing home-cooked meals to day laborers outside a nearby Home Depot. Social distancing has complicated that, but Corriente is still finding ways to share his desserts with the world. In the past few months, he says he’s worked with multiple charities to get food and desserts to those in need, has donated cupcakes and cookies to hospitals, and has been baking birthday cakes for those who can’t afford them.Corriente estimates he’s baking at least 5 hours a day, every day. But Catholic Charities’ request was a challenge, even for him. “I got the call Wednesday or Thursday, and I’m a crazy person so I said yes, not really knowing if we had all the ingredients,” he says. For four days straight, Corriente would wake up at 3:30 AM to make batter and have 400 cookies ready to go into the oven by 6 AM. With the help of some of his brothers and plenty of sanitization, Corriente was able to have all the cookies packaged and ready for delivery by 11 AM on Tuesday.
Since early March, Catholic Charities has given out roughly 200,000 meals in the Washington area, but an increase in the food insecure and decrease in volunteers means the organization has struggled to serve everyone who comes to them for help. Corriente says the organization is realizing that the pandemic is going to last for a while, and that their response now has to “move from a sprint to a marathon.” He encourages those who have the means to donate money to the organization to help keep the food pantry stocked.
For his part, Corriente will continue to make desserts for anyone who’s struggling right now. “We need to nourish our bodies through good nutrition, vegetables, protein sources,” he says. “But there’s a different emotion when you eat a good dessert…it gives you this intense moment of joy, and I feel like it helps uplift the soul. A meal can be nourishment but it can be so much more than that. It can transcend you into a heavenly realm. For me, the best thing that does that is cookies.”