Inflation and rising food prices are causing more and more people to seek meals at Loaves and Fishes, the local soup kitchen that serves dinner seven nights a week.
Loaves and Fishes partners with faith groups and volunteers to provide evening meals for the homeless and others.
The kitchen typically serves an average of 125 people per night and an average of 140 meals over the course of a month. However, coordinator Ruth O’Neill said “over 150 were served on some nights”.
“Two years ago we almost never served 150 meals. Now we rarely serve 120 meals, we serve more than that,” she said.
The First Christian Church served 160 people in June and ran out of food. In August, church volunteers prepare to serve 200 people.
About 40% of those seeking meals are homeless, she said. The rest are food insecure or disabled, and some have an income but still need a meal.
“We don’t do resource testing,” O’Neill said. “As long as they don’t disturb, if they come and want to eat, we let them eat.”
In the past, volunteer groups prepared 125 to 130 meals for a single sitting, which would be enough even for those who wanted seconds, she said. Because the number of people has increased dramatically, even 140 or 150 meals would not be enough to meet meal demands.
“We try to explain to our volunteers that the number is up, so they try to respond by bringing more food than they normally would,” she said.
Groups of volunteers agree to prepare food and serve on a rotating schedule. Loaves and Fishes provides staples and coffee, which are always in high demand in the kitchen, O’Neill said.
“We try to keep some things on the shelves that (groups) can give people in case meals run out,” she said, like the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, granola, or protein bars.
Volunteers and donations are ways the kitchen can meet the growing demand for meals, O’Neill said. The kitchen always has open spaces for new groups to step in and help those in need.
The First Christian Church is asking for ground beef donations for the specific meal they will be preparing, wrote Elizabeth Mottaz in a recent church newsletter. Meat can be given raw or cooked, and packages must be L&F marked and placed in the church freezer by August 17.
For those who want to donate food to Loaves and Fishes, the kitchen always needs coffee, napkins, ranch and Italian dressings, canned vegetables, granola and cereal bars, dry pasta and rice .
She also said those interested in volunteering and serving in the kitchen can contact Wilkes Boulevard United Methodist by phone.
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