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People gather around a potluck table

A community lunch brings people from all walks of life around the table to enjoy great food and interesting conversation. St. Bart’s decided to host a lunch so they could feed people and bridge the gaps in their community.

St. Bart’s Community Lunch Pittsboro, NC

Chatham County

St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church is full on Thursday afternoons, but they aren’t holding a traditional church service. They open their Parish Hall to anyone who would like to come in for a free, hot lunch. They encourage all people from the community to come, not just those who can’t afford a meal. The food is set up buffet style, usually with two main course choices (meat or vegetarian), sides, and dessert. Community members fill their plates, then take a seat at one of the long tables that fill the hall. Some people have been coming since the program started in 2008, while others are visiting for the first time. Many of the attendees say they keep coming not only because of the food, but also because they like meeting new people in their community.

What’s on the Menu?

When we visited, the meal featured roast chicken with orange cranberry sauce, ratatouille pasta for vegetarians, corn and potato cheese gratin, slaw, and African peanut soup. Everything was prepared by volunteers that morning, and the menu was chosen based on the food that was donated that week. Diners were offered water, tea, or lemonade to drink, and got to choose from a wide variety of desserts prepared by community members. A local bakery donated enough bread for every person to take a loaf home. Donations for the kitchen came from local farms, restaurants, grocery stores, and community gardeners/farmers who “grow a row” for the lunch.

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Karen Ladd, who started St. Bart’s community lunch, has one big piece of advice for anyone interested in starting their own lunch: Start small. The lunch began with about 20 attendees, and has now grown to around 125 attendees every Thursday. They have a group of dedicated volunteers who come from both the church and community. If anyone wants to get involved, Karen finds a way for them to help. Some people do fundraising, some act as greeters, and other help cook or clean up.

Fundraising and gathering food donations has been one of the hardest parts of this program. They have received some grants to purchase cooking equipment, but most of their funding comes from donations and fundraisers. They are also classified as a “partner food bank,” which makes it easier for them to accept food donations.




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