Loaves and Fishes Saga 2020

The Loaves and Fishes project began this year with a few new ideas. Volunteers from the UU Congregation of Princeton took a new look at the menu of food that we’ve been providing for many years. Perhaps it could be more nutritious and more economical. There were a series of meetings with UUCP, weighing the options. We visited stores and gathered information on size of portions, costs and nutritional values. Little did we realize how different things would become.

Soon the rumblings in the news about the new coronavirus became more and more real. Restrictions due to the pandemic began to be announced. We asked, can we make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches when people have to be 6 feet apart? Many of our volunteers are over 60 and considered at risk. How can we ask them to help?

Then there were shortages of certain foods and stores began to restrict purchases. We wouldn’t be able to purchase the nearly one hundred loaves of bread and eight cases of canned corn, etc. due to the limits. We were searching for other vendors and other options.

It became next to impossible when members of the UUCP began to self-quarantine because Rev. Rob Gregson was being tested for the virus; they had met with him recently.

For all intents and purposes we canceled the Loaves and Fishes project and contacted the leader of Loaves and Fishes. She explained that they would be assembling bagged meals for pickup outside of St. Mary’s. She suggested that we provide brownies for dessert, and the Loaves and Fishes volunteer staff would come up with the rest.

You all came through with dozens and dozens of brownies. The church was closed so we set up delivery points, Nancy Neff’s in NJ and Ed and Ronnie’s in PA. (The brownies gave our car the most delicious scent pf chocolate.)

Then, at the last minute, Ray Nichols from UUCP was able to arrange for the purchase of 300 boxed lunches from a nearby Subway store. The owner generously agreed to make sandwiches from his remaining deli supplies since he was forced to close anyway. He brought in a small crew who, in the early morning, assembled sandwiches and packaged them with an orange (we still wanted a healthy meal). UUCWC agreed to pay for half and provide a drink and the brownies for dessert.

Ronnie and Ed picked up the juice boxes, and delivered these, along with the brownies, to St. Mary’s on Saturday morning. Then they and Ray picked up the 300 boxed lunches at Subway and delivered them as well.

All of the pieces fell together: Subway prepared sandwiches. UUCWC provided drink and dessert. Loaves and Fishes volunteers assembled the bags for distribution.

All of this was done to serve people who are in truly desperate need. There they were in a driving rain on Saturday, lining up outside to receive the meal that we provided. Some pulled carts with their belongings, others had just the clothes on their backs. They may not have known where their next meal might come from or actually where they might sleep that night. However, UUCWC and UUCP were there, on the last Saturday in March, despite a pandemic, helping them on that one day.

Ed Dobrowolski, Social Action Ministry