Health

Helping Lander’s Community Meal Feed More

Thanks to a bigger refrigerator, the Community Meal at United Methodist Church now feeds more than 100 people per week.

Lander
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Community Meal volunteer Joni Lee Marinez prepares chili. Photo by Kirk Rasmussen

As the COVID-19 pandemic—and accompanying economic distress—began to unfold across America, charitable food organizations had a sense that more families would turn to food banks, community meals, and other food donation locations for assistance. (They were right, too: The number of adults aged 18 to 64 accessing food pantries increased from 13 percent to 20 percent in 2020, according to a new study from the Urban Institute.)

To help meet the anticipated need, the Lander Care and Share Food Bank offered to donate bulk food that can’t be used by a single household to the Good Samaritan Community Meal at Lander United Methodist Church. The problem was that the Community Meal didn’t have a refrigerator big enough to store the quantities of food being offered—and the bulk food couldn’t be broken down into smaller portions.

So Community Meal volunteer Lucy Cone, who helps manage the program with Deanna Trumble, approached LOR program officer Michelle Escudero about a grant to support the purchase of a fridge big enough to store the food and feed more families. By fall, an Atosa reach-in commercial fridge was up and running.

“In the past, we were not able to accept fresh produce or meat due to a lack of refrigerator space in our location at the Methodist Church kitchen,” Cone says. “We are able now to provide better food, fresher food, and an abundance of food to those who need it.”

Volunteers prepare food to hand out curbside at Lander's Good Samaritan Community Meal every Friday. The addition of a large refrigerator has allowed the Community Meal to serve fresher foods and more meals to the Lander community.

Volunteers arrive at Lander United Methodist Church around 3:30 each Friday afternoon to prepare meal with the week’s delivery—everything from chili to fettuccine alfredo. At 5 p.m., cars begin lining up to pick up the individually boxed meals—typically the Community Meal serves more than 100 people. “I’ve seen people ask for as many as 16 boxed meals,” says Escudero, who volunteers at the Community Meal. Anything leftover at the end of the night is packaged into family-sized meals and distributed elsewhere in Lander.

The model is a bit different from the one the Community Meal established in 2017. Back then, community members went through a buffet, then sat down with people to share a meal family-style—a model that was as much about creating community as meeting a need. “The Community Meal model was set up to give nourishment to the soul and the body through bringing people together for a meal every week,” Cone says.

COVID-19 might have changed that process, but the sense of togetherness and connection to community? That’s stronger than ever. And you can be a part of it as a volunteer. To sign up, email Cone by clicking the link below.

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Michelle Escudero

What does it take for a place to become more than just a place? What turns a town into a beloved, lively and strong community? For Michelle, the answer is easy. It’s the connections and special relationships built between the… Meet Michelle

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