WASHINGTON — The United Presbyterian Church has decided to temporarily suspend hosting Saturday Kitchen meals as COVID-19 concerns rise.
Marde McConnell, volunteer with the church, said the decision was made only recently after trying to find safer ways to still distribute. Traditionally, the meal is served inside the church where people can gather and talk among themselves.
“It’s an opportunity for people to be in a pleasant environment and visit with their friends and family and not have the added expense of going out for a meal but it just did not feel safe,” she said of why the meal will temporarily be suspended.
Once gathering restrictions came out, McConnell said meals were put in to-go boxes and it became carry out only. Usually, the meal services 80-100 people but for the past three weeks more than 200 have been attending.
Local restaurants JPs 207 and Cafe Dodici donated to help with the cause, she said. Preparing to-go meals was much different from preparing for a sit down lunch and their assistance was helpful for the unexpected jump in numbers.
However, while waiting for the meals, people were gathering in the parking lot to chat, which raised concern, she said. For those in the kitchen, it did not feel safe for them to be preparing food for the public, either.
“We just felt on all levels it was just not safe for the few of us bagging the meals and neither for the guests that came,” she said.
McConnell said not being able to have the meal is upsetting, but it was in the best interest of everyone involved. The meals will return once virus concerns have diminished and will continue to be in to-go containers.
“It breaks my heart we are not going to be able to do it, but it’s really what’s best for everyone,” she said.