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Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Organizers John Steffel (from left), Lisa Kremer, Jan Ojinnaka and Brittany Larson stand in the kitchen at St. Mary's School in Worthington where the Bread of Life Feeding Ministry will now be headquartered, beginning with a first meal served from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Jan. 9.

Bread of Life charity has new community focus

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news Worthington, 56187
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

WORTHINGTON -- The Bread of Life Feeding Ministry will resume operation after the first of the year at a new location and with a repurposed focus.

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Bread of Life was organized by a group representing local social and community service agencies and area churches and offered its first meal in January 2009. It operated out of Worthington's Westminster Presbyterian Church, serving a simple meal each Saturday in order to help struggling families and individuals.

In the spring of this year, the effort ceased when both volunteerism and participation slowed down. But that doesn't mean there isn't still a need in the community, stressed the people who are reorganizing the ministry.

"In light of the current economic situation, there's not one of us who hasn't been touched by it in some way or doesn't know someone who is having a hard time making ends meet," explained John Steffel, youth ministry coordinator at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Worthington.

Steffel, who started working with the local Catholic community a few months ago, began looking at options for helping people in need through the local food shelves and was told about the feeding ministry.

He approached the Rev. Jim Callahan about moving the meal to the St. Mary's School facilities and received support from the idea from the priest, St. Mary's Principal Brittany Larson and Catholic Charities parish social ministry coordinator Lisa Kremer. Jan Ojinnaka of the Southwest Crisis Center, who served as chairwoman of the original Bread of Life committee, also rejoined the effort.

"We are always looking for ways to help other people," said Larson about the school's interest in being part of the ministry. "When John asked, we offered our kitchen and other supplies here. ... We think it's a wonderful service to our community and something that many families could benefit from, not just needy families."

This time around, the emphasis is not only on serving a meal, but also fostering a sense of community. The ministry's mission statement is: "Bread of Life provides nutritious food and community interaction."

"We wanted to take out the concept of neediness," said Kremer, explaining that there's a stigma attached to taking advantage of a free meal. "And there are people who have other sort of needs, the need to interact with other people, the sense that we're all in this together."

The St. Mary's School kitchen is already set up for food service and has been inspected to meet county guidelines, and organizers have received instruction on food safety protocol. Aaron and Jody Johnson, who served as kitchen coordinators with the initial effort at Westminster, have come forward to serve in that capacity once again.

Groups and organizations are now being asked to serve as hosts for the meal, both doing the actual service and footing the bill. The actual foodstuffs can be garnered through the local food shelf in order to keep costs low, perhaps $25 to $50 per meal, depending on how many people are served.

"We're trying to get more churches involved, and not just churches, but the community," said Kremer. "We actually will provide the food, using the Second Harvest food bank, and they will come in and fix it, and then they are billed for it. The actual cost will be a variable we'll have to figure out as we go along."

In addition to funding and serving the meal, organizations will have the option of providing a program or activities in order to promote their group and build on the idea of the meal as a time for building community.

"It will be an opportunity to get information out to people in the community about services that are available," Kremer said.

The hope is that people will receive proper nutrition through Bread of Life and also build connections across cultures and economic circumstances.

"If people sit together, it's an opportunity to network in an informal way," added Steffel, envisioning people finding connections to various community resources, but also sharing job tips and hardships during the meal. "It's a chance to sit together and talk about that. There's always a comfort in knowing you're not the only one."

"A lot of differences can be transcended by sitting at the same table together," added Kremer.

While previously the Bread of Life meal was served on Saturdays, the committee has decided to move it to Sundays. The doors at St. Mary's School will be open and the meal served from 3:30 to 5 p.m. each Sunday beginning Jan. 9. The volunteer time commitment, with preparation and cleanup, would be from approximately 2 to 5:30 p.m.

Anyone interested in volunteering for Bread of Life Feeding ministry or desiring more information should contact Kremer, 360-3423.

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