OCK expands to second location

First Presbyterian is newest area site

For three years, Our Community Kitchen has been based at The Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Stillwater. But starting June 12, the breakfast program expands to a second location at First Presbyterian Church.

Our Community Kitchen is a food justice program that provides breakfast, creates community, and teaches people about food. Although the program is based in a church, it is not a religious entity and is open to everyone. People can come in, enjoy a free breakfast and talk with others. Those who can afford to pay for a meal are encouraged to give a suggested $5 donation to offset costs and pay it forward to keep others from going hungry. Children always eat free.

Our Community Kitchen’s expansion comes when students and families receiving free and reduced lunches at schools are getting out of school for the summer. But the Rev. Cader Howard of First Presbyterian and Julie Luna, who’s been working with Ascension, emphasized that although providing breakfast to school-age children during summer is important, it’s not the main reason OCK is coming to First Presbyterian. They also want to build community and create a place for food and conversation.

“The breakfasts bring all walks of life from our community that don’t normally eat together,” Luna said. “People who can give donations do, and those who can’t, manage to get one more meal than they may not normally get. We’ve managed to raise enough donations to cover the food costs through donations at Ascension.”

“It’s just an amazing group of people,” said Lynn Pagliarini, who takes the lead in the kitchen. “We teach people about eating nutritious foods, making nutritious foods and cultivating community. There’s a multiplicity of cultures and conversations around the tables and it’s one of these little places where you’re sitting next to someone you’ve never met before and as you talk you discover that you have similar interests and things in common.”

The breakfasts are volunteer-run and Luna said First Presbyterian volunteers are excited to start and Ascension volunteers are eager to train them. The food is made fresh, grown locally and some items come from gardens set up at Ascension this year. Diane Rollie said volunteers are encouraged to contact her and help out.

“You might be a cheese grater, a pancake flipper, or even whip up some scrambled eggs. And of course we’re always looking for someone to make people feel comfortable” Rollie said. “There’s no previous experience required and we encourage kids over 12 to volunteer.”

“It’s really exciting to have the program expanding. It’s an open and welcoming environment and First Presbyterian is supplying lots of volunteers to prep the meals,” Luna said.

The number of volunteers interested in helping with the project didn’t surprise Howard.

“We as a church have always been interested in working to fit the needs of our neighbors and we’re really excited about it,” he said.

It’s a sentiment that is echoed by each of the organizers. They want to help others and that’s that.

“We don’t want any hungry children or families and we have people who are very passionate about that,” Pagliarini said.

First Presbyterian Church at 6201 Osgood Avenue North in Stillwater has set up their Our Community Kitchen for 8 to 10 a.m. Wednesdays on six-week pilot basis from June 12 to July 17. After July 17, Howard said the church will go back, evaluate the impact and see if changes need to be made.

Rollie hopes there’s enough demand that the OCK expansion can continue. Pagliarini added that the church location could be helpful to many since it is a short walk from the Washington County Government Center and accessible to the broader community.
Ascension’s kitchen, at 214 North Third St. in Stillwater, is 8 to 10 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Those interested in volunteering for Our Community Kitchen can contact Diane Rollie at 651-436-0300. For more information on the group check out the website www.ourcommunitykitchen.org.

Contact Avery Cropp at avery.cropp@ecm-inc.com

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