‘Loaves and Fishes’ free lunch awarded $3,000 grant
ROCKLAND — Loaves and Fishes, a community weekend hot lunch program hosted by St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, in Rockland, and staffed by volunteers from 11 community groups, has been awarded a $3,000 grant from the Episcopal Diocese of Maine.
The grant supports programs that assist people living in poverty. With a poverty rate of 13.7 percent, Rockland is the ninth poorest city in the state, according to a news release.
Each year Loaves & Fishes serves 4,000 weekend meals worth a total of $10,000 each year. A low annual budget of $1,500 covers basic kitchen supplies and equipment.
Teams generally fund the meals they prepare and serve through donations from their organizations or members, additionally donating an estimated 1,800 hours of service throughout the year.
The mission of Loaves and Fishes is “To serve nutritious noon meals and provide a welcoming community center and secure place for weekly fellowship with others.” As one regular participant commented, “I look forward not just to a good meal, but for the chance to be with friends and . . . the volunteers,” according to the release.
Loaves & Fishes originated more than 25 years ago by members of the former Pratt Memorial Methodist Church and continued with sandwiches distributed from the back of a station wagon in St. Peter’s parking lot. Growing with growing local need, the program evolved into a community-wide partnership involving many churches, organizations, and businesses to prepare and serve nutritious weekend meals.
The program now also offers Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas feasts, attended by many in the community.
St. Peter’s supplies the host site and coordinates the church and community groups that provide volunteer teams and meals. Current teams hail from Aldersgate Methodist Church, Adas Yoshuron Synagogue, Youthlinks, L.I.F.E. Ministry, Camden for Community, CHRHS Honor Society, Nativity Lutheran Church, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, St. Thomas’s Episcopal Church, and the Unitarian Universalist Church in Rockland.
Rock City and the Atlantic Baking Company regularly provide coffee and bread, and the staff of Primo’s Restaurant provides and serves a special meal each January.
The $3,000 grant will be used to purchase tables and chairs to replace those that have served the program since 2002, when St. Peter’s made major renovations with an eye toward more expansive outreach partnerships with the community.
Today St. Peter’s offers a central meeting locale and space for a number of self-help, nonprofit, and for-profit organizations committed to providing services to improve community life. People or organizations interested in being part of St. Peter’s community commons are encouraged to contact the church office (594-8191).