For over twenty years, Trinity Church of Northborough, MA, hosted a free, full course community meal every Wednesday evening at 6:00 pm in their Fellowship Hall to anybody who was in need of a nutritious meal. Meals were prepared and served by a variety of faith communities and community groups from Northborough and vicinity. They usually had between 60 and 80 folks come to their building for food and conversation. That all changed when the pandemic started and the building was closed to the public.
However, that didn’t stop the members of Trinity from supporting the community’s food needs. In June, the church started offering a drive-through community meal in their parking lot during the same time slot.
“We are trying to alleviate some of the needs that a food pantry cannot address – like a hot, nutritious meal – and do it in a safe and socially distanced manner,” said The Rev. Valeria Schmidt, pastor of the church.
During the school year, lunches were provided to families with children by the school district, and a local restaurant offered a free meal twice a week. Both of these programs ended over the summer. The town’s Family and Youth Services informed the church about the lack of available food resources over the summer. Schmidt then contacted Martha Michalewich, a church member who is very connected to other community groups, and asked for advice in taking on this endeavor. Michalewich took the idea and ran with it, and it all happened quite quickly from there.
“I think this program means a great deal to the community in a number of ways,” said Michalewich. “First and foremost, it provides a meal on Wednesday evening to our guests. Secondly, it allows members of the area churches and volunteer groups to help others in a time where we all feel so helpless.”
More than one participant commented that they were happy that the meals were being provided again.
“I think these meals are important because it relieves the burden of one meal a week where someone who is food insecure or lives alone or just wants to get out can come and get a meal,” said Schmidt.
This program is a concerted effort among Trinity Church, the Northborough Food Pantry, Northborough Junior Women's Club, and many other local faith communities, community organizations, and individuals who volunteer their time and donate. Many have worked together before, but this was the first time they partnered with the Food pantry. It’s also a special relationship with the restaurants who agreed to provide the meal at $5 each. Donated fruit, water and dessert are also given to anyone who stops by the church during the program.
Volunteers can sign up to donate a case of water or two dozen individually wrapped desserts and/or stand in the parking lot and deliver the meals to guests in their parked cars. All guidelines of social distancing are observed. Schmidt estimates that 60-70 meals are given out (the numbers have been increasing), and about 10 volunteers are needed each week.
One volunteer remarked: “It warms my heart to be able to make a small contribution in the lives of the recipients with a meal and a smile (even with masks on) and a little conversation as they come through the line.”
“Outreach has always been a strong part of Trinity’s identity, as has its connection to the local community,” said Schmidt. “God and Jesus tell us repeatedly to feed the hungry and reach out to those in need. The motivation for this ministry is best summed up by the commandment to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27)
“We cannot duplicate the fellowship of our Community Meal,” said Michalewich, “but we can provide the food portion.”
Trinity Church anticipates they will continue to feed the hearts and souls of the Northborough community even after it is safe to go back into the building.
Learn more about the program or sign up to volunteer at Community Meals Take-Out Program. You can contact Rev. Schmidt at the church office at 508-393-8156, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit their Facebook page.