BY ROSIE PIGA PIZZO
For more than 30 years, Community Kitchen of Monroe County has been working to eliminate hunger in the area. It provides both sit-down and delivered meals for individuals and families in need.
“What we do is such a basic need, and we couldn’t do that if we didn’t have ways for community members to support these individuals,” says Executive Director Vicki Pierce.
Community Kitchen is the second largest distributor of food for Hoosier Hills Food Bank and relies on grants, government programs, donations, and fundraisers, such as the Chefs’ Challenge. This annual event, now in its ninth year, features three local chefs competing to create a winning dish. This year’s event takes place October 4 at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater.
In 2014, 79 percent of the Community Kitchen’s budget was spent on children’s programs. The start of another school year marks the beginning of one such program for kids: Backpack Buddies. Every Friday, 280 kids at 11 schools in Monroe County bring home a backpack of food items for their families.
“That’s eight pounds of food per week per kid,” Pierce says. Donations are critical.” Peanut butter, canned meat, instant oatmeal, and dried fruits are just a few requests.
Manpower for such programs is just as critical as donations, says Pierce. Community Kitchen employs 13 staff members and relies on 100 volunteers to keep operations running smoothly.
A total of 126 volunteers are required in the summer to run regular programs as well as the Summer Food Service Program, which provides free breakfasts and lunches for kids in 10 low-income neighborhoods.
From 4 to 6 p.m. Monday–Saturday year-round, staff and volunteers serve an average of 132 carryout meals at 1100 W. 11th St. and 212 sit-down and carryout meals at 1515 S. Rogers St. This facility offers a larger space for patrons to dine compared to its old Rogers Street location. Pierce says when they designed the new building, having a family dining area was a priority. “I love that if this is the family’s best plan to get a meal, then they can sit down and be together and feel comfortable being here,” she says.
For volunteer opportunities and to learn how to donate, visit their website at monroecommunitykitchen.com.