Sloppy joes and chips were on the menu for the first meal in three months at the Tabernacle Mission Soup Kitchen.
The meals, along with bags of freshly grown greens from the soup kitchen’s garden, cartons of fresh eggs and bags of candy were available for pick-up at the pavilion at Tabernacle Presbyterian Church, where the soup kitchen is located.
Wednesday was the first meal prepared at the soup kitchen since it was closed in late March due to the coronavirus. Traffic was slow as the pick-up line began, and volunteers are hoping that people will return in future weeks as word spreads about the reopening.
“We are very hopeful that people realize that we are reopened and trying to provide meals,” said Pat Russo, chair of the soup kitchen’s board of directors.
The pick-up is a way that the soup kitchen can continue to provide meals while taking precautions to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The size of the dining area within the soup kitchen is too small for social distancing during meals to be a practical option, she said.
The coronavirus pandemic has been a challenging situation for the soup kitchen, Russo said.
“Not only do we have to consider the health and safety of the people we are serving, but also about keeping our volunteers healthy and safe,” she said.
The decision to reopen was taken with much caution, and at least two faithful volunteers who have had recent health problems were asked not to help until they are better, Russo continued.
For now, meal pick-up will be scheduled each Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the soup kitchen.
If the pandemic continues to ease, the soup kitchen hopes to begin deliveries again when it becomes safer to do so, she said.
The soup kitchen delivered its weekly meal to a number of residents prior to the pandemic. Mary Goldman, executive director of the soup kitchen, said delivery routes may have to be established for volunteers and visits made to homes were deliveries have been made in the past to determine if the residents are still the same.
When the coronavirus began, the soup kitchen did not have much of a choice but to close down, Russo said.
In addition to the concerns of keeping both the public and volunteers safe, Goldman said, they also faced some limitations in food supplies available from such sources as Second Harvest Food Bank. For example, for a typical Wednesday meal that features a chicken dish, several pounds are needed, she explained.
However, Second Harvest was limiting how much chicken an agency could get to have enough of its reduced supply to provide some for all, Goldman said, and what the soup kitchen was going to be provided was much less than needed for a meal.
While the kitchen was closed, work continued to tend to the garden behind the church that provides vegetables for the kitchen, Goldman said. The garden is maintained by the Big Spring Master Gardeners organization.
On Wednesday morning, the garden was also filled with activity as members of the Greene County Partnership’s adult leadership program were providing a day of service helping spread mulch around the garden and between the various vegetable beds.