Apr 09, 2008
Urban Ministries of Durham Breakfast
Monday breakfast at Urban Ministries of Durham -- oatmeal, scrambled eggs, half a ham-and-cheese sandwich on whole grain bread, half a carrot/bran/something muffin, and a mug of coffee.
Urban Ministries of Durham provides free meals daily -- breakfast, lunch, and dinner -- to anyone who comes by. No money. No prayers. No required participation in anything.*
A new lead cook has just come on board, and the whole team is working to improve both appeal and nutrition, starting with breakfast. Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day for many UMD diners. By my estimate, UMD serves ~125 people each morning. And I'd guess that at least 1/4 are going off to some kind of work (construction, janitorial, whatever-they-can-get) right afterward. Increase the fraction if you include "parenting" in the work category.
Where does the food come from? Breakfast and lunch "groceries" come from many sources that do gleaning, collecting, or donating. One of my favorite sources is the Interfaith Food Shuttle whose refrigerator trucks collect banquet and restaurant leftovers from places like the Durham Convention Center run by Marriott. UMD has a longtime relationship with Whole Foods (baked goods are a high volume donation)** . And of course there are congregational and neighborhood food drives, the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, and the USDA.
In recent years, demand for meals has grown modestly or remained steady. However, it's getting harder to keep the food supply coming into UMD's kitchen. I'm not sure of the exact reasons, but if I had to guess, it would be a combination of: a slower economy that makes for less "excess" at banquets and restaurants, higher gas and food costs impeding donors, etc. Upping the quality standard won't make it any easier to have an ample supply of what's needed.
*Though it's not quite "no questions asked" because they request your name and birthday as a way of tracking service stats. I guess there isn't really a "free lunch" in this world. But if you're concerned about privacy, you could always give a fake name and birthday. If you wanted to pay a favor for the usage stats data gathering, you could also be so kind as to always give the same fake name and birthday.
**Challenge/conundrum/irony: Whole Foods donates lots of high-nutrition baked goods like the ones you see on the near tray. But a lot of UMD's diners don't necessary like whole grains, nuts, bran, etc. in their bread. They prefer and are used to plain white bread. And a lot of UMD's diners don't have great teeth, either. So... how does one serve?
When I've served at the kitchen for Saturday lunch (which I have, once a month most months, for the past five years) we tend to get between 125 - 150 people. This wavers a bit because Saturday is a big day for other free meals by other groups in town, and folks may hit more than one spot or be content with one. It has really affected my life for the better, volunteering there. In any case, yay you for participating. :)
Posted by: Celeste | Apr 10, 2008 10:21:12 AM