Food with a side order of faith

NORTH KITSAP — A new group is looking to cook up some attention for their cause.

The North Kitsap Food Coalition and Faith Coalition offers free meals to help the homeless and build connections in the community. Composed of several churches and organizations throughout Poulsbo and Suquamish, the focus is on filling every empty belly with warm food.

“You’re calling them community meals for a reason, your main focus is to be pulling in the homeless that really are in need, but the larger goal, I think, for all the churches is to invite the community in as a whole,” said Kathy Smith of North Point Church.

The coalition is still developing as an organization but all the members hold very similar values in helping those in need. “Our meal is for anyone,” said Karrie Stemmler of First Lutheran Church. “Even if they’re just lonely and they want to get out at night … it doesn’t matter.”

Despite the open invitation, difficulties in getting people to come and indulge are prevalent.

“If they view you (as) in the church, there could be a wall that gets immediately put up and that’s just the way it is,” Smith said.

Dave Fischer of Christ Memorial Church reiterates that some are hesitant to show.

“It takes time to build trust,” he said.

Christ Memorial Church is the newest addition to the line-up; its first meal was served this month.

Often, it is not just the faith aspect of these meals that can deter newcomers — a family or individual might be embarrassed by being in need.

“We all want to help people but sometimes it’s a very slow process getting them to trust you and that it’s okay to be helped in that regard too,” Smith said.

Although mixing church with food can be a deterrent for some, First Lutheran Church’s cook, Tim Bodner, has developed quite a following and tends to keep prayer to a minimum.

“He leads in a brief prayer right before meal time … but that is the only thing that we do, do is thank the lord for our food and then people are free to eat,” Stemmler said.

First Lutheran is currently the only location that has a meal weekly, every Thursday.

Many of the churches serve upwards of 40 people at these meals.

Some of the churches involved in the effort to feed the community are trying to serve more meals. The North Kitsap Baptist Church just added another day to its schedule. It was the first church of the group to serve the public. In December 2008, their meals began with just 11 people and have since grown to more than 60. Their attendance is also very community based.

“I’ve even heard: ‘Ed’s cooking, I’m going to the church,’” said Ed Scott, chef at North Kitsap Baptist Church.

Dinners are funded by donations, grants and volunteers. Each church or organization offers their time, efforts and resources for these free meals. They are looking to open kitchens in Kingston.

Community meals

Seventh Day Adventist , 5-7 p.m., last Monday;

Suquamish UCC , 5-7 p.m., last Wednesday;

Christ Memorial , 6 p.m., first Friday;

North Kitsap Baptist , 4-6 p.m., first and fourth Tuesday; and

First Lutheran , 5-6:30 p.m., every Thursday.

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