Hope and a Kitchen on Wheels

May 13, 2020 | by Amy Warren

When the soup kitchens are closed, where do people in need go to find a meal? In St. Joseph, Mo., The Salvation Army is bringing the kitchen to them.

A new service has emerged from The Salvation Army in St. Joe. Under the command of Major Ronald Key and Social Services Director Allison Lippard, the Corps has started a mobile service providing food and personal protective equipment. “We saw a big need in the area because most of the places where folks usually go to get fed are closed due to COVID-19,” said Major Key.

Since late April, the team of four volunteers has traveled around St. Joe each Friday, searching for people who might be in need of a warm meal. From parks to bus stations, they make as many as 10 stops per trip serving food to everyone. Other items like hand sanitizer and face masks are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

The benefit of the mobile kitchen is they can reach folks who might not otherwise have a chance at a meal that day. “Depending on where the folks are staying, it could be quite a walk to where the open soup kitchen is,” Lippard explained.

As the word gets out, the team has been able to reach more people.

“The first week we fed 75, last week we served 100, and tonight we’re planning for 125-150,” shared Major Key. And it’s not just the homeless population they are reaching. “We’ve also been going to underserved housing developments - we go serve the homeless first, then we head to Section 8. It’s gotten a really great response.”

This might be the first time some of these folks have interacted with The Salvation Army, and Major Key and Lippard want to use it as a springboard. “We are hoping that this helps build more relationships during COVID-19 so folks know what services we offer,” Lippard said. “We’ve been getting a lot of phone calls; we know the need is there.”

The benefit of a small and mighty team is they can remain flexible to meet the needs of the community. “We probably will keep serving this way until everything is going to be opened back up. If needed, we may continue through the summer months,” Major Key said.

They also hope to see their volunteer numbers grow and keep this service alive for future community support. “The primary goal is feeding people; the secondary goal is to grow this service so it can be ready for any disaster relief. Then if we have a flood or a tornado, we can have a ready team of volunteers to support the staff here in providing food and relief,” explained Major Key.

The Salvation Army operates multiple mass-feeding programs across the division, just like this one in St. Joe. To help support others facing food insecurity in Kansas and Western Missouri, click here to donate.

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