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Soup kitchen a growing gem in Berkeley Springs

March 21, 2006|by TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - The Meal Time Community Kitchen at Starting Points has grown since its inception last year. It now serves a free evening meal three days a week - Monday, Tuesday and Friday from 3 to 6 p.m.

As part of a three-component nutrition project to assist Morgan County residents, community members donate their time to prepare and serve evening meals at the Starting Points "soup kitchen."

Sharon Rankin, Morgan County Starting Points Resource Center employee, is in charge of the menus and the food. She has been supervising the soup kitchen since it began last year, when it served meals on Tuesday and Friday. Monday was added in January, and it's growing, Rankin said.

Once a month, local organizations volunteer to prepare the food and serve it, she said. Usually, there are three to four people in the kitchen. "This is an experience cooking for large numbers," she said.

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Rankin said the soup kitchen serves between 25 to 50 people each day. "I love to see people enjoy eating and each other's company," she said.

Many shut-ins receive the meals in their homes, and volunteers take it to them, Rankin said.

War Memorial Hospital, Tari's Premiere Caf and Warm Springs Restaurant donate soup once a month, and on those days, the soup kitchen makes sandwiches to go with the soup, said Starting Points director Audrey Morris.

Donated funds pay for most of the food purchases. The bulk food used to prepare the meals is usually purchased from a food distributor. Most of the bread used is donated from a local organization, and anything else, such as canned, jarred and some frozen items, are purchased through the Mountaineer Food Bank and is ordered online. The delivery is picked up from the Berkeley Springs Moose Lodge parking lot, not far from Starting Points, Rankin said.

This past Christmas, Meal Time even received a $500 gift certificate for a local meat market, Morris said.

"Homey foods are popular, like ham and dumplings, chicken and dumplings, spaghetti, and macaroni and cheese," Rankin said.

Desserts are an added surprise, said Rankin, and they receive cakes and pies from approved sources.

"Cakes and cookies are bonuses," she said.

Groups have their specialty, she said. The chili made by the Knights of Columbus "generally gets wiped out," she said.

Sometimes groups raise money to purchase what they need to prepare their meal. Recently, Morris said, one of the groups prepared a complete turkey dinner with dessert with the donated money.

The people who volunteer want to be part of this.

"They want ownership," Morris said, because they are a part of it.

"I think it's a win-win situation for the families accessing the meals and for the volunteers having the fellowship," she said.

Amanda List, a member of AmeriCorps, coordinates volunteers. List promotes Meal Time Community Kitchen by speaking with local organizations to get more groups involved, she said. One of the groups is made up of individuals, and she is seeking more children to become volunteers in the soup kitchen.

Karin Kozloski, nutrition outreach worker at WVU extension office in Martinsburg, W.Va., assists the Meal Time Community Kitchen staff in menu planning to make sure the foods served are nutritious and the menus "well rounded," she said.

Kozloski said, "I really commend them on this program. The community has come together on Meal Time," she said. Kozloski said she would like to see a program like this in Martinsburg.

Kozloski also teaches six-week nutrition classes at Starting Points, which is the second component of the nutrition project.

The classes are offered to parents and children, and focus on making healthy food choices, safe food preparation and storage, and tips on budgeting food dollars, said Morris.

"They learn to cook nutritious meals at home and avoid the quick fast-food stops," she said. They learn what to do with leftovers, Morris said.

The third component is Celebrity Chefs, in which local establishment chefs prepare specialty dishes and participants taste and learn how to prepare them, "like Emeril," she said.

The cooking demonstrations will start in late spring, will be open to the public, and the fees will be used to help sustain Meal Time.

"It will be entertaining and educational at the same time," Morris said.

An appreciation luncheon will be held for the Meal Time volunteers April 6 at Starting Points, Morris said.

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