Apr 14, 2009 Ami Olson Uncategorized
They say there is no such thing as a free lunch — but nobody said anything about a free dinner.
Maybe that’s how Sarah Cox and a group of volunteers at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Marcellus plan to pull off a free community dinner each month, beginning Tuesday April 21.
The “Loaves and Fishes” dinner is set for 5 to 7 p.m. at the Maple Street church and will provide a well-balanced meal to any community members interested in sharing a hot meal with neighbors and friends.
Cox said the concept of offering a free meal was being discussed by members of the church vestry when she decided to research the idea.
“I’ve talked to three churches who do this. The feedback I’ve gotten is just overwhelming, how much the people love to do this in their community,” Cox said. So in early March the planning process began to bring a community meal to Marcellus.
Starting from scratch
The first step was to find the food. A few weeks ago, Cox sent letters to grocery stores asking for donations, particularly foods that may not be sellable but were still perfectly edible, like day-old bread.
But what she received in return were gift cards to purchase goods herself.
“Corporate entities are helping to fund this meal,” Cox said. “We’re not paying for this out of our budget, our church is a little church. Times are tough so we’re asking the grocery stores.”
By taking the time to contact the corporate grocery stores, Cox learned that most of them set aside a budget for community outreach — exactly the sort of thing Cox had approached them for.
Cox said she has also received donations from private residents who have heard about the idea and wanted to contribute.
“The first meal is covered,” Cox said last week.
Now, comes the hard part: cooking.
Come one, come 100
“I have no idea what to expect,” Cox laughed. This being the first meal of its kind in the community, there is no way of knowing how many people will show up. “That’s my big challenge,” she added.
But with the advice of the other communities Cox has contacted, she’s confident the meal will not be wasted, even if only a handful of people show up.
We can send people home with leftovers for a second meal, feed our workers and even donate what is left to the Rescue Mission downtown, Cox said.
“None of it is ever wasted.”
Free for all
One of the important aspects of the meal, Cox said, is that it is truly a free meal. No collection plate will be passed, no donation jar will be set out.
In her letter to the grocery stores, Cox referred to the meal as “a good meal with friends and neighbors to engender neighborhood friendship without judgement.”
Though there is clearly a need for help in the Marcellus community — the Durgee Ecumenical Food Pantry helps around 80 families each month, and the unemployment rate across the country is on the rise — Cox pointed out this type of meal can satisfy many needs, not just a bare cupboard.
“I think a lot of people could be served with a meal you don’t have to worry about paying for,” Cox said, and that’s the purpose of the meal — to provide community, companionship and fellowship, for free.
So far, 20 people have signed up to help with the meal, Cox said. For more information about the meal, how to donate or volunteer, call the church at 673-2500.