by Cori Hilsgen
All are welcome to a community meal that will be served from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 26 at the American Legion in St. Joseph. The meal will be spaghetti, but a vegetarian option will also be offered.
Various St. Joseph organizations and residents, who have been meeting for several months, are involved in the planning and promotion of the “Joe Town Table” community meal. Organizations involved include the College of St. Benedict Community Kitchen, Church of St. Joseph, Resurrection Lutheran Church, Central Minnesota Catholic Worker and the College of St. Benedict Monastery.
Central Minnesota Catholic Worker member Kevin LaNave said he wants people to know the meal is for everyone and is meant as a way for all people in the area to gather to share the meal and get to know one another better. It’s not just intended for those dealing with low-income situations.
“I hope the community meal becomes a space in which the distances between us – whether due to differences in income, or in age, or in the length of time we’ve lived here – are bridged,” LaNave said. “Where we (can) meet new people, and experience new energy and ideas. Who knows what might happen when those kinds of conversations take place, what kinds of improvement in the quality of life throughout the community could emerge?”
Central Minnesota Catholic Worker member Molly Weyrens said they want people to attend.
“We hope it can be a community event for those who need it for financial reasons, but also seniors (senior citizens) looking for company along with a good meal and also St. Joe folks wanting to connect,” Weyrens said.
Central Minnesota Catholic Worker member Laryn Kragt Bakker has lived in St. Joseph for a year. He also serves on the board of the St. Joseph Farmer’s Market and has found it somewhat difficult to get to know people in town.
“Trying to break into a small-town network has been more difficult than I had expected,” Bakker said. “So for me, the idea of a community meal where people eat and spend casual time with people from their own community sounds really nice. I’ve found that in my experience in the last year, there’s a certain hesitation among people to go out and meet even their neighbors or meet the people around them. But as soon as they have a little push, it’s like a switch turns on. So hopefully, this community meal can be a little push like that.”
AmeriCorps Vista Community Kitchen organizer Natalie Keane is involved in the planning of the meal. Community Kitchen officially began in October 2013. It’s a new program on the CSB campus to help address the problem of food waste and food insecurity, with an emphasis on rural Stearns County.
“Our team of student leaders and volunteers utilize prepared, unserved food on campus through a congregate dining model that seeks to bridge services and build relationships in the community,” Keane said.
She said all members of the area are invited to sit down, break bread with one another and share in conversations at the meal.
“Community Kitchen seeks to be a mutually beneficial campus-community partnership, and that success lies in the relationship we build,” Keane said. “Our students are excited for the chance to get to know our community members off campus, and I think we are all excited for a delicious warm meal.”
Central Minnesota Catholic Worker member Tim Hudock, Keane and CSB/SJU students plan to prepare the meals. Organizers hope church members and others in the area will also become involved in cooking and serving the meals.
There is no charge for the meal, but donations will be accepted. Organizers plan to offer monthly meals at the same time and place on the fourth Sunday of each month.
For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hilsgen is a contributing reporter for the Newsleaders. The central Minnesota native is a wife, mother and grandmother. She has a Bachelor's degree in Organizational Management and Communication from Concordia University – St. Paul, MN and enjoys learning about and sharing other people's stories through the pages of the Newsleaders.