Family Kitchen, a community free meal program in downtown Bend, is looking for new sponsors and a new home. Trinity Episcopal Church says demand for the free meal service is outstripping its ability to support the program.
Family Kitchen was founded in 1986 by six members of Trinity Episcopal Church to provide meals to mill workers and their families after the local lumber mill shut down.
“We have been privileged to be physically sponsored by Trinity Episcopal Church for 37 years. With the growth in Bend and the growth in need comes growth in our services, and we have kind of outgrown the nest,” said Donna Burklo, Family Kitchen program manager.
Last month, Family Kitchen prepared 20,000 meals in a kitchen that’s supposed to serve one church.
Trinity Episcopal, the downtown Bend church many locals know as the church with red doors, says the demand is overwhelming.
“The growing homeless problem, certainly those people are very hungry. It’s expanding their demand for Family Kitchen in a way that we can’t keep up with,” said Rev. Jeff Bullock, Interim Rector.
Family Kitchen’s board of trustees president John Trachtenburg says the loss of church sponsorship poses a challenge, but the organization is committed to finding a solution.
“We are hoping for a building but we aren’t ready to say it’s a ‘for sure’ yet,” Burklo said. “We need a rather large space. It most likely will require a build out for which we will need support. Family Kitchen, having been the beneficiary of this relationship for so long, we are going to have a much larger budget. We are going to need financial support.”
Most of the meals Family Kitchen prepares are served at other facilities, such as the Lighthouse Navigation Center on 2nd Street in Bend and the Stepping Stone Shelter on Division.
“I’m hoping that somehow, somebody in the city will get them a kitchen that’s huge and enormous that will meet their needs. I don’t expect that to happen overnight,” Rev. Bullock said. “While there was a timeline in the original agreement, we are not going to hold to it.”
Family Kitchen is already informing those who come for meals that it will be moving eventually.
The organization says it is committed to continuing serving those in need with fresh meals every day, just as it has for the past three decades.