Food of Faith ministry builds community for volunteers as much as it does for the recipients

In the midst of pandemic, people still need to be fed physically, spiritually, and emotionally, and a community meal served on Sunday afternoons continues to meet those needs.

Volunteers from left are Janet Olson, Valerie Cross, Heidi Prince, and Bob Cross. Food of Faith got its start at Trinity Episcopal Church in the mid-1990s. In the beginning, the meal was served once a month as a way to provide food and fellowship for local people in need. It wasn’t long before the church opened its doors every Sunday. In 2003, Food of Faith - West formed as an offshoot of the original organization.

On a typical Sunday, about 150 people visit Trinity Episcopal Church for a hot meal. Pat Maxim heads the ministry, helping to coordinate the volunteers, and says the weekly meal fills a gap on the city’s East Side. “Trinity is located in an area where there’s a lot of poverty,” says Maxim.

The church, located at 815 Grant St., is in the same neighborhood as the Salvation Army, 401 10th St., and Good Samaritan Rescue Mission, 713 Ninth St . Maxim says it’s one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. Data from 2015 shows the area has a poverty level nearly 9% higher than the national average. Based on that, Food of Faith volunteers don’t ask what the need is, but serve anyone who walks in the door.

“We feed anybody in need,” says Maxim, and that doesn’t just mean hunger. “Our philosophy is that anyone who shows up at Trinity – you need something, whether that is a meal, whether that’s a spiritual need, a social need, or a safety need, everyone is welcome.”

She says before the pandemic, the church would open its doors at 1:30 p.m. ahead of the 3 p.m. meal, so people could sit down and visit in a safe place.

Prior to the pandemic, diners were invited inside to visit with one another before the meal. Now, all the meals are served to go to limit potential exposure to COVID-19.Out in their neighborhoods, people aren’t necessarily safe, Maxim says, adding, “You can’t sit down with your neighbors and visit and have a meal because there’s trauma out there in the neighborhoods.”

She says poverty, crime, and fear keep people from coming together in the way they can at the church.

This year, more than a dozen different churches and organizations signed up to prepare food and serve meals through the program.“It’s amazing the amount of respect people have for the church, whatever church that is, whatever socioeconomic background that person comes from, they still have respect for the church. That’s what makes programs like Food of Faith work.”

Typically, when people are able to dine in, Food of Faith feeds between 130 and 200 people a week. When COVID-19 restrictions make dining in impossible, about 150 people pick up meals to go each week. It is the only community meal provided on Sundays, says Maxim.

Bay area churches work with individuals and organizations such as Bay City Civitan, local scout troops, the Marine Corps, to keep the Food of Faith program running.The program operates at Trinity on Sundays, and at either Westminster Presbyterian Church or Messiah Lutheran Church on Thursdays. It is supported by all of the Bay Area churches.

Other organizations, such as Bay City Civitan, local scout troops, the Marine Corps, and families who want to give back to the community through service, also support the program. Maxim says Trinity began the ministry and provides the space, but it is really a community-wide effort.

Servers hand food out to all who come to the meal, as long as supplies last.Each year Food of Faith holds an annual meeting, inviting all of the churches and groups together to choose which Sundays they’ll serve. For this year, there are over a dozen different churches and organizations signed up to serve the needy.

When their Sunday comes up, the volunteering organization brings in the food and volunteers who will serve the Sunday meal. “It’s simply held at Trinity,” Maxim says. The hosting church or group will bring anywhere from 10 to 15 volunteers to help prepare the meals, serve, and clean up afterward.

The meals often include a dessert.Everyone benefits from the program, Maxim adds.

“They’re fellowshipping amongst themselves, but also with our guests,” she says. “Everybody gets something from it, and at the end of the day there is never a person that walks out of there and doesn’t just feel good, and know that this is what God has told us to do.”

The program is open to other churches and groups who are looking to help neighbors in need.

“We believe that by feeding those in need in our community, we present possibilities to a group of people who may otherwise not have this experience,” says Maxim.

Between 10 and 15 volunteers are needed to prepare and serve food before cleaning up.Meals are provided at Trinity on Sundays beginning at 3 p.m. On Thursdays, Food of Faith - West serves drive-through meals at Messiah Evangelical Lutheran Church, 501 S. Catherine St., from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Food of Faith - West is supported by Hidden Harvest, the Bay Area Community Foundation, Thrivent, the Evangelical Lutheran Church Synod, Westminster Presbyterian, and other churches and organizations in the area.The volunteers say they benefit as much from the program as the people who receive the food.For more information on Food of Faith, or to volunteer, click here to visit the Trinity Episcopal website or email Maxim at pjmaxim@yahoo.com.

For more information on Food of Faith - West, or to volunteer, email Judy Miller at jamiller852.jm@gmail.com

 

 

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