A hot meal once a week makes an importance difference in the lives of local residents who need it the most. The Sunday Soup and Bun program, which is hosted by a number of community churches, has found a way to continue to serve hot meals to those in need, while following all COVID-19 restrictions that are in place.
In the original form of a Community Supper, the program was started by minister at the Knox Presbyterian Church, and the initial goal of the program was to serve one monthly community hot meal, one Sunday evening every month.
When other churches and ministers were invited to get involved, John Smith, minister of the Church of Christ, and his wife Jane knew it was a program that was worth supporting.
“We thought it was a great idea. There are a lot of people in the city who live alone, or have various issues, and it would be good for them to have an outing,” said John.
After COVID restrictions were put in place in March 2020, the Community Supper program had to be changed. John and Jane decided to start a hot meal program, and it is now known as the Sunday Soup and Bun program since there is no in-person community supper at this time.
“We are taking a hot meal to whomever is asking for them, or whoever is referring them. If they are asking for a meal, it is supplied to them.”
“Generally, with volunteers and people from the community, we had about 50 people who attended the Sunday Soup program. Eventually there were enough churches that came on board that we were able to offer it every Sunday evening.”
The program was held from November to March, to ensure that the hot meals were available during the colder months. Of course, with COVID-19 being an issue in 2020-21, the committee had to look at the meal program differently last year.
“The folks from Knox Hall checked with health regulations, and learned that we could have held the event in the hall, but it would include a lot of restrictions. The committee thought it would be difficult to manage to hold it in the hall,” said John.
“But we still had a lot of people ask us when the meals were going to start. For them, it was not just coming to the hall and having an outing, it was the food itself that they missed.”
With support of using the kitchen at Knox Hall, the Church of Christ called upon their regular volunteers and did two test take-out meal options in November.
“We contacted most of the people who were coming to the programs, and learned that the majority of them preferred to have a meal delivered to them. The other partnering churches then saw how it worked, and came on board to support the program once again in its different format.”
“We were cautious at first, because we didn’t know how the program would work. But it has been pretty smooth and quite manageable.”
In addition to the Church of Christ and Knox Presbyterian, the other partnering churches include Zion Lutheran, the Catholic Women’s League from St. Vincent de Paul Roman Catholic Church. As Jane explained, any volunteer group who is interested in helping to support the program are welcome to come on board, and take a Sunday in the rotation.
Since the program is now delivering the hot meals to residents, they needed more volunteers to come on board as drivers. They started out with 20 meals, and then it grew to over 30, and now it is over 40 meals weekly.
There are also a lot of volunteers that bring soup, lasagna or chili to the church, and a team of four will work in the kitchen to package up the food. The hot portion of the meal is portioned into a 24-ounce Styrofoam container. The hot meal also comes with a couple of buns, and cookies or muffins.
“I have run into someone who has received the soup, and they are very appreciative,” said Jane.
After the food is packaged, John will put each meal in a brown paper bag, and staple a label to them. The meals are then handed over to the drivers, who take the food out to one or two addresses each.
John explained that each driver typically is going to the same address, so there is familiarity to how the food is delivered, and they can also check up on the residents. John will also check on those who are using the program by phone, so the social component is not as missed.
“It goes pretty quickly. We get into the hall after 4 p.m., the meals go out at 5 p.m., and by 5:30 p.m. the meals are all gone and the kitchen is cleaned up,” said Jane.
Different churches are involved, but John and Jane Smith at the Church of Christ are the main contacts for residents who want to receive a meal, or volunteers who want to become involved in donating food, supplies, or become a driver.
The program will continue until the end of March. Hopefully the restrictions won’t be in place by November 2021, when the program starts again, but the Church of Christ has a plan in action now in case restrictions remain.
It was noted that because there was no JAMS Christmas dinner held in 2020, that Cam and Gail Weber organized a Christmas turkey dinner through the Soup’s On program, so that a few of the participating families were able to benefit.