MANILA, Philippines — A Philippine archdiocese has expanded a long-running food program for poor people to prevent deeper turmoil from economic hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan in Pangasinan province, north of Manila, said it is looking to increase the number of people it feeds daily from 750 as part of its Rice Porridge for the Poor program, which was launched three years ago.

Rice porridge, or lugaw, is also known as the “poor man’s food” for being inexpensive. One cup of rice makes six cups of porridge.

During World War II, it became the staple food for most Filipino families, especially when food was scarce.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas told that the program has gained in popularity and support among many churchgoers over the years.

The program has expanded to 15 parishes, he said.

Originally expected to last only until donated rice ran out, the program has been sustained by churchgoers who continued to donate sacks of rice to parishes, the archbishop said. “We have not run out of rice to cook,” he said.

How many more people the archdiocese can feed will depend on how much rice is donated.

The youth ministry of Mary Help of Christians Parish and the archdiocese’s minor seminary have been helping distribute rice meals to the needy as part of the project’s expansion.

The group said in a social media post that it had been distributing food for more than two weeks and would continue doing so while donations were received from “generous” hearts.

Churchgoers credited Villegas and the youth ministry volunteers for their efforts.

“We thank the archbishop for expanding this project. The pandemic may be a difficult time, but it is also an opportunity to be generous to our poor brothers and sisters,” parishioner Lourdes San Jose said on social media.

“May God bless you all for the good you are doing for the poor. There is indeed a joy in feeding! May God reward you for your generosity,” churchgoer Grace De Guzman said in another post.