Family Kitchen aims to feed SK’s hungry — if it can find them

Sharon Demianiw put some of the extra cilantro, lettuce, apple and carrot salad into a to go box for a guest.   - Kaitlin Strohschein/Staff Photo
Sharon Demianiw put some of the extra cilantro, lettuce, apple and carrot salad into a to go box for a guest.
— image credit: Kaitlin Strohschein/Staff Photo

Leaders at the local Family Kitchen at First Lutheran Community Church on Mitchell Avenue have had increasing difficulty finding people to take the free meals they give away.

“We have lots of volunteers and good meals, but our attendance is down,” said Bea DeBoer, who’s volunteered with the kitchen since it opened 22 years ago.

Several leaders attribute the low attendance to increased difficulty finding transportation.

“We’ve noticed that when gas prices went up, our people coming went down,” said Nobi Kawasaki, a Family Kitchen volunteer. “Also, they’ve cut down on bus routes, and that’s another way that they get there.”

The Family Kitchen’s volunteers try to make every guest feel welcome by not pushing a particular belief system — even though most of them are Christian — said Sally Murphy, a volunteer.

“The tables are set. No questions are asked. We just want to help,” said DeBoer. “It’s a good, warm, friendly setting and good food.”

About 30 to 50 people eat at each of the kitchen’s dinners, but volunteers still try to cook enough food for about 100 people — the number who used to go back in the program’s heyday.

Leftover food is boxed and sent home with Family Kitchen’s guests.

Support for the program comes from food and money donations as well as unpredictable free food from the federal government through commodities.

“Commodities are a strange thing,” said DeBoer, because there’s no telling what kind of food they will bring.

“Sometimes you plan on making a certain dish and then you see that half the ingredients are missing,” said Bill Kepper, who has cooked dinner on the last Friday of each month for the kitchen for about three years.

The menu varies from meal to meal, but each dinner has a main course, a salad, a roll, a dessert and a beverage.

“They like the spaghetti and meat sauce that I make,” said Kepper. “Another very popular dish is a salmon loaf with fresh celery cream sauce.”

Volunteers prepare the free dinners on the last two Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays of each month at 5 p.m. at First Lutheran Church in Port Orchard.

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