By TAYLOR MURCHISON-GALLAGHER
Zion Lutheran Church hosted a volunteer reception luncheon on Wednesday, April 18, at Nuchie’s Restaurant, to thank and honor the volunteers that make the “Meals for Neighbors” program, formerly “Meals for the Needy,” a reality.
“I wanted to thank you all for coming today. Today is our day where we recognize all of you guys for all the great works that you guys do for us over the years,” said Cheryl Yetke, director of Meals for Neighbors. “This is our fifth year, believe it or not, that we’re having this wonderful luncheon. Every year it seems like it gets a little bit bigger, and a little bit more fun, and we really want to thank Nuchie’s for what a great job that they do and continue to do. It takes a special person to make a difference in someone’s life. Taking time out of your busy schedule to either cook or clean, crochet or knit hats, gloves, or mittens, and even cleaning up after dinner; that’s why we’re here today. You guys are all committed to helping with our neighbors, serving our neighbors.”
Louise Ignacak leads the Senior Commodity Food Program, or, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program.
“It goes through the Department of Agriculture, through FoodShare, and it comes to us,” said Ignacak. “From what I understand, they give so many boxes to each state, and right now we can’t get more boxes, we don’t know if the program is going to continue or not, we’re hoping it will because we have 34 people right now coming every month to get a box, and we have 22 people on a waiting list so far, and we’re still getting calls from other people to see if they can be added onto the list, so, there’s a need there. There’s a need in Bristol for the seniors. We’re trying, we’re trying to help everybody.”
This program is for seniors aged 60 or older. They receive a box of food, valued around $50, once a month, at no charge.
Jim Palma, a representative of FoodShare, told those gathered, “Each one of you has taken time out of your day, and many days, to give back to the neighborhood, to your neighbors. The point here today is really to extend our thanks, from FoodShare, to each of you, and I just thought I would give a little bit of summary… You see so many meals as you prepare or clean the pots and you wonder, ‘How does this impact Bristol?’ So, last year, 70,000 pounds of food came from FoodShare through your organization, that’s a tremendous amount. And, if you convert that into meals, it’s a huge number; 58,000 meals were prepared by you and distributed by you, and then cleaned up afterwards. Eighteen tons of that was produce, and it came to Meals for Neighbors at no cost, FoodShare does not charge administrative fees. And then meat, here’s the bargain of the century, six tons of meat, and the charge for that was less than $100. So, there are some wonderful individuals and organizations that donate the food to FoodShare and allowed to pass that through you. All that sounds wonderful, but I’m here to remind you that the need continues, so the neighbors around you, about one in ten individuals in Bristol are below the poverty level; that’s about 6,000 individuals, so it’s not a small number. So, the need continues.”
Yetke said the program has run for five years, run by the close to 170 volunteers that aid in every aspect, be it cooking, cleaning, assisting their clients, or serving meals to those who come to their food pantry.