Local restaurants, students participate in Salvation Army Community Kitchen

By Junna Miyazaki | Journalist

Diana Barrett, public relations director and volunteer coordinator for The Salvation Army in Waco, said the organization’s community kitchen is a place where anyone can receive free meals – 365 days a year, including holidays. The kitchen serves breakfast and dinner daily, and it serves lunch on Mondays and Tuesdays as a local cafe serves other days.

“We also provide snacks and refreshments, in addition to meals, during times of extreme weather or crisis, such as during winter storms or heat waves,” Barrett said. “We have continued to serve throughout the pandemic, even switching to takeout when needed to keep everyone safe.”

The food served by the kitchen comes from a variety of sources, but is mostly purchased directly from food vendors, through donations and subsidies. Cargill donates meat to the kitchen, while Shipley’s Do-Nuts locations in Woodway and Robinson donate leftover donuts.

“The community kitchen has a huge impact on this community by helping to fight hunger,” Barrett said. “Those who come to our kitchen may be a mix of people who are homeless or people who have accommodation but simply cannot afford meals.”

Panera Bread, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Pizza Hut, Domino’s, Uncle Dan’s BBQ, Longhorn Steakhouse and the VA Medical Center also donate leftover food to the kitchen. Additionally, Baylor’s Bearathon and Kappa Omega Tau (KOT) donated cases of water.

Barrett said that while in the kitchen, attendees can learn about their other services, including showers, shelters, clothing vouchers, drug and alcohol detox and relocation programs at long term that help people move from homelessness to stay at home.

“For some people, coming to our kitchen is the first time they’ll seek help,” Barrett said. “It may be the first place they go, even before they know about the other services we offer. A meal from us may be the only meal they have had that day – or several days.

During the school year, volunteers from various Baylor organizations help serve meals. Each group reserves a different day and serves week after week. These Baylor groups include Alpha Epsilon Delta (AED), Alpha Phi Omega (APO), Future Nurses Association (FNA), Multi-Cultural Association of Pre-Health Students (MAPS), and Red Cross. Baylor’s Medical Student Organization (MSO) serves twice a week: Friday dinner and Sunday breakfast.

“It can be appealing to students because of the flexibility of being able to serve any day of the week,” Barrett said. “It coordinates well with class schedules, as most volunteers are in the evenings or weekends, nights or mornings. We are also located close to campus. Each group has a date set aside for it, which helps students know they can always volunteer. Serving meals gives students the opportunity to do something as simple yet meaningful as feeding a neighbor. »

Barrett said that with so many volunteer groups coming from a health background, students bear witness to the relationship between the physical and spiritual person.

“The experience students can expect when they volunteer is one of gratification and hospitality,” said San Antonio senior Kalton Tran. “At the community kitchen, students will perform various tasks around the shelter. Primarily, volunteers will serve food to those in need. Men, women and children pass through the kitchen, and a great sense of fulfillment comes when we get to serve these individuals and families.

Tran said he always enjoyed volunteering in the kitchen and went there as often as he could.

“When the leadership position presented itself, I jumped at the chance,” Tran said. “I always aim to encourage individuals in my organization to get out and serve in the community so they get to know people outside of their bubble.”

Gladys T. Hensley