Free meal for Marcellians planned for April 21

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.

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