Our local hot meal kitchen reopened this week. Some of you might be tempted to call it a soup kitchen but I caution you against that as it is far more than just some hot soup. The kitchen is a lifeline to the people of our small town and in this economy one that has become more vital by the week. Like so much of America the economic downturn and housing crisis has hit friend and neighbor alike. Couple that with the high cost of living through a long cold winter in Maine (it was -8 degrees the other morning) and many are at or over the brink of financial disaster.
When you feed someone a nourishing meal out of love you also nourish the soul, yours and theirs.
That the kitchen reopened is a testament to the dedication of many people in our town and surrounding area including members of the faith community. You see the kitchen had operated out of the parish hall of the local Catholic Church for a long time but back in the spring of 2011 operations were forced to cease when the diocese wanted the kitchen to pay rent equal to the utilities and insurance costs necessary to use the hall. Faced with a funding shortage the kitchen had to close.
Stepping in to help fill the void was a local resident and organic farmer Craig Hickman who began offering a hot meal service from his farm and B&B one day a week. When word that the local food pantry was closing he stepped up again and offered products from his farm to those in need. As Craig wrote on his blog at the time “Food is life. We cannot allow a single person among us to go hungry for a single day.” Now, thanks to the support of so many in the community, including the members of the Catholic Church and other local churches who took up special collections, the funds have been raised to cover not only the needed rent, utilities and insurance: but to help sustain the work of the kitchen. The result is a hot meal for lunch that will be served every weekday.
Wednesday they reopened and served over 3 dozen meals at the church plus over 2 dozen more that were packed for pick up or delivery. That is at least 60 people who otherwise might not have eaten that day, or had a balanced and nutritious meal. Maine ranks first in the New England region and thirteenth in the nation overall in food insecurity (meaning they do not know where the next meal will come from day-to-day) among residents. Nationally the average is 1 in 4 children go to bed hungry each night. This is unacceptable.
“I was hungry, and you gave me food. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was alone and away from home, and you invited me into your house.” Matthew 25:35 (New Century Version)
There are many worthy charities and causes that demand your time, attention and funds but I would like to ask that today you consider your local food pantry, meal kitchen or food related charity. Nearly every single town has a story like my hometown and a group of dedicated individuals who could use your help. While funding is always a need, so are food supplies and volunteer labor. Consider how you can get involved and make a difference and start this discussion on how your church can get involved as well. Some can write a check, others can cook or clean or serve, others still have the ability to donate goods and supplies.
It is time for people of faith to do more than just pray about hunger in America.
We need to offer a helping hand and radically demonstrate the love of Jesus to everyone, including the hungry. Let us commit to ending hunger and homelessness in America.
If your community is blessed to have a fully funded food outreach program and you would still like to help a worthwhile cause, I know a little noontime kitchen in Winthrop, Maine that would love your prayers and support.