Do You Know About Loaves and Fishes?

by Ed Dobrowolski and Ronnie Dobrowolski, Social Action Ministry

If you are new to UUCWC, you may not know the story behind Loaves and Fishes, one of our congregation’s longest-running social action outreach efforts. Loaves and Fishes is an organization that provides weekend meals for the homeless and working poor at various locations in Trenton. Twice a month that weekend meal is served at St Mary’s Cathedral in Trenton. Food is provided for those meals by different congregations and social justice organizations in Mercer County.

For more than 30 years, UUCWC and the UU Congregation of Princeton (UUCP) have partnered on a Saturday in the spring to provide a sit-down hot meal and a take-out meal when Loaves and Fishes is at St. Mary’s. This year, UUCWC and UUCP will be providing the meal on Saturday, March 30th.

One out of eight people in New Jersey is food insecure, meaning they lack an adequate, consistent supply of food. The problem is worse in Trenton and the Covid 19 crisis caused even more people to become food insecure. Through our involvement with Loaves and Fishes, we hope to provide the food that folks need to sustain themselves, while we simultaneously work to change the systems that allow hunger to exist in the United States in the twenty-first century.

For many years, our involvement in the program ran like clockwork. We served five hundred meals and had up to ninety volunteers each year making brownies and serving food at St. Mary’s. When the Covid pandemic closed doors and services, we had to improvise. The first year, we purchased hundreds of sandwiches from a local Subway shop that wanted to help. We have had a different program in place for each of the pandemic years.

Now, we are settling down to a new routine. Volunteers cook taco chicken with all the trimmings for the Saturday meal and provide a take-home serving of chicken as well as a brown bag lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and fruit. This year, our church construction presents a new challenge; we cannot cook in the kitchen. Our Food Ministry team has taken on the task of cooking the food at home.

So, how can you help?

This year, the brown-bag lunches will be made at UUCP, so we will not need many helpers. We will need ten volunteers to serve the meal on Saturday to about 250 guests at St. Mary’s. Volunteers assist in preparing St. Mary’s community room for the meal, serve snacks and hot beverages before lunch, serve the main meal, and clean up after lunch. Volunteers from UUCP and other organizations will also help with the meal.

We need volunteers to bake 250 brownies! Each volunteer should provide two dozen brownies. Volunteers can sign up at a SignUpGenius link to be provided in the weekly emails. Drop-off locations will be announced soon.

Despite the changes and challenges stemming from the Covid pandemic, UUCWC continues its tradition of ensuring that the people who come to St. Mary’s for a meal can leave a little less hungry.