Loaves & Fishes offers free weekly community meal in Farmington

The public is welcome to join first meal on Jan. 1 

When news broke that Farmington's only grocery store was closing its doors before Christmas, seniors showed up at city hall asking for help.

Community, city and faith leaders responded by listening and networking to find ways to help residents who are home bound or those who do not drive anymore or have access to a car and need to get groceries and prescriptions. 

A new, free weekly meal will be served, and the public is invited to join in at the supper on New Year’s Day.

Loaves & Fishes will serve the community meal from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 1, at Faith Church in Farmington, 710 Eighth St., off Highway 3.

Cathy Maes, executive director with Loaves & Fishes in Minneapolis, said the impetus for a meal site came after the grocery store closed its doors last Friday.

“I contacted the mayor and he connected me with a whole cohort of different local churches and faith leaders in Farmington and social service agencies,” Maes said.

Loaves & Fishes, a Minnesota Hunger Initiative and member of Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, has served free, nutritious meals at Twin Cities locations for 35 years. The meal sites began in 1982 and today serve about 3,500 meals daily in Minnesota.

While the name “Loaves and Fishes” was initially taken from Bible scripture, this nonprofit is not a religious organization. Loaves & Fishes is guided by a vision that all people, regardless of socioeconomic, cultural or ethnic background, deserve to meet their basic needs for food, dignity and respect.

Loaves & Fishes runs 32 open-to-the-public dining sites in the Twin Cities, and Farmington will be the 33rd site. In Dakota County, there are meal sites in Eagan and Inver Grove Heights.

“We say we serve in many ways but the top two are with healthy, nutritious food and with company because we know that heart disease is terrible but loneliness is just as bad, and so for a lot of people who have not seen anyone all days we are there to be a social connection,” Maes said.

Loaves & Fishes partners with Second Harvest to gain access to food and has an 8,000-square-foot warehouse in the Twin Cities.

“We have the capacity to make sure we are serving really good food,” Maes said.

There will be a need for volunteers to come serve, welcome guests and cleanup at the meal site.

“There will be somebody there to guide the volunteers, make the correct food and ingredients and make sure that it is all safe,” Maes said.

“We are committed to Farmington and it is not just a quick in and out or a pop-up shop, we are committed to make sure Farmington is taken care of,” Maes said. “What it shows us and our board of directors is that we can come in when there is a problem or an emergency and we can help and that makes me really happy.”

Adult and youth volunteers will be needed.

“There is nothing more amazing than a 5-year-old handing another 5-year-old a banana,” Maes said.

Faith Church has served a community meal for years, but this opportunity allows the church to partner with Loaves & Fishes. The church’s Clothed in Faith upstairs closet will be open on that Wednesday evening to offer free clothing for children and adults.

Many Farmington churches and their congregations will be partnering at this new, weekly meal site to offer help with meal prep, menus and cleanup. 

“When the grocery store closed, we lost a part of the community and the opportunity to be in community with other people, so the reality of the store closing is that it is a necessary way for people to get groceries and prescriptions but there is also an opportunity for people to see each other and be together in the community and connect,” said the Rev. Karen Evenson, pastor at Faith Church in Farmington.

Her husband Scott Evenson is happy to serve as a lead in the kitchen. He is a former chef who loves cooking and understands how food feeds the body and the soul.

“We as a community will be cooking and serving the meals and they will help with the food and the support for the cost of the meal,” he said. As a chef for 26 years, he said: “Cooking and food service has been something that I have been involved with all of my life, and now I am trying to really blend that with my ministry background."

He also works as a chaplain with his background in theology.

The Loaves & Fishes meal site will need translators who speak Spanish and French.

To volunteer, go to www.loavesandfishesmn.org and click on the Signup Genius. 

Maes said: “We serve with a heart and we are really excited to get going in January, and we are hoping it goes so well with volunteers that it will be able to expand into more days to make sure people that are missing the grocery store are still getting food and having takeaways after the meal."

Individuals and families will be able to take a meal home after the supper.

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