Latest News

Community Kitchen to offer dine-in hot lunch for first time since COVID

What’s behind that distinct red door at Trinity Episcopal Church on the corner of Willey and Spruce streets in downtown Morgantown?

The answer is Community Kitchen, Inc., sometimes simply called “The Kitchen,” which provides lunches five days a week for community members in need of a hot meal.

“Even though we have been here 38 years, not everybody in the community knows who we are and where we are,” said Cheryl Prichard, board of directors president and volunteer.  “A lot of people just refer to this as ‘the red door.’”

When COVID hit, The Kitchen closed its indoor dining area and has limited its service to daily take-out meals for the past two years – serving the meals from the red door on the parking lot side of the church.

“We provided hot meals – an entree, a salad, and fruit and drinks and all those things,” Prichard said, “but they had to carry them out and eat elsewhere.”

Starting Monday, the nondenominational, nonprofit organization will reopen the dining area for patrons to come enjoy their meals inside for the first time in years.

“Lots of people are hungry and it’s our mission to feed them and we want to feed them in a communal setting as much as we can,” Prichard said.  “We’ve been trying really hard to decide when to open and we decided we’d make it kind of a party and open it on Halloween.”

Monday’s meal will have a fun holiday twist, featuring meatballs that look like eyeballs and a special Halloween treat bag filled with popular candy brands.

Kitchen Manager Jennifer Powell said they currently serve somewhere around 130 take-out meals a day and they expect to see about the same number of people when changing back to dine-in.

Powell also mentioned a grant-funded program that helps them provide an additional high protein item with each meal like yogurt, eggs or string cheese.

“For some of these people this is the only meal they will have all day, so it’s nice having that little extra high protein that they can take with them,” Prichard added.

Hot lunches will be served from 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Monday through Friday and weekend bags will be distributed on Fridays with enough food items for one breakfast and one lunch.

Prichard said many people believe that The Kitchen only feed homeless people – and that is just not true.  

“Anyone is welcome.  We have people who are employed but aren’t making enough money to carry through the month,” she said.  “We have students, we have elderly people with disabilities, we have families that come that need to take food home for children – no one is refused.  We don’t ask any questions related to eligibility, we don’t ask them anything at all.  If you show up at the door and want to eat – we feed you.”

With grocery prices rising, Prichard said a number of the people who have been coming to The Kitchen “have little to no income and not a lot of extra – so having one meal five days a week is something you don’t have to provide for your children.”

The Kitchen operates with only three part-time employees, including Powell, and the rest of the work is done by volunteers with funding coming from various grants and donations.

Powell said the kind of meals served daily will depend on what donations they have received and what is available in cupboards and freezers.  Food comes from a variety of sources, including donations from area grocery stores, farms and restaurants.

Board secretary and volunteer Aurie Acciavatti said the soup they serve daily actually comes from Olive Garden.  The Kitchen works together with many other area restaurants and organizations to receive donations and redistribute food and other items where they are needed.

“We know some of the people who come to our door are sleeping rough, many don’t have homes – some do, some don’t – so we provide Mylar blankets, socks and gloves in the winter,” Prichard said.

Moving forward, the organization would like to limit the number of take-out meals and serve all meals in house.

Prichard said that doesn’t mean they would not send a meal for someone disabled or elderly who couldn’t make it to their locations.

“We would like to do as few take-out meals as possible, but the mission is to feed people, so we do what we need to do to feed them,” Powell said.  “We don’t want to see anyone going hungry.”

The three women said they will try to meet people where they are and do what is within their ability to meet their needs – even something like a loaf of bread and peanut butter when they are struggling at the end of the month.

“We do what we can,” Powell said, “but unfortunately we are not set up to be like a food pantry.”

“It’s our belief and our governing principle to treat people with dignity and with respect,” Prichard said. “They come here for lunch and we treat them the same way we would treat the governor if he showed up.”

With the reopening of the dining room, staff and volunteers will have to work out the bugs after being out of practice for two years.  

“It may take us a couple days to get it down pat, but we know we will,” Prichard said.

Through COVID, all they needed was a small group of people who were helping, but now that they are expanding again, Prichard said they need more volunteers.

Acciavatti added, “most of the clients are new clients that have come over the past 2 1/2 years, so eating inside is going to be all new to them and our volunteers are basically new folks as well.”

Prichard said to find out more about everything offered by Community Kitchen or to sign up to volunteer or donate, visit their website