Volunteers, like these men from St. Andrew's, carefully plate the food before it is delivered to the diner. Volunteers are crucial to the Episcopal Community Services' restaurant-style community kitchen.
A chef reworked the community kitchen's menu and worked with culinary students on plating skills. Now the kitchen serves beautifully prepared and healthy food, like this spice-rubbed roast chicken.
Here at Episcopal Community Services, our motto is “Feeding the Hungry, Changing Lives.” We oversee a network of food programs across the Kansas City metro, including several pantries located in various Episcopal churches and the Kansas City Community Kitchen at 8th/Paseo, just east of downtown.
we started getting calls and emails from all over the country and around the world asking how we got started and how they could do something similar. The truth is, we can do it because we are a part of a great community here in Kansas City
Kansas City Community Kitchen (KCCK) made the news in Spring 2016 when we made a big change to the way lunch is served. Rather than a traditional soup kitchen model that serves cafeteria-style meals (people waiting in line for their tray of food), we started serving nutritious, restaurant-style meals.
We had a restaurant chef work on our menus and plating skills, and volunteers began serving as hosts, bussers and waiters, giving diners the opportunity to choose which specific items would go on their plates. We use real silverware, china, offer refills on beverages, bus the tables for them and encourage volunteers to have conversations, getting feedback from our guests on how they like the food and what other menu items they’d like to see in the future. We call it “Dining with Dignity” and it made news – you may have seen us in the KC Star, on Upworthy, in an online video that went viral on social media, and most recently on NBC Nightly News.
One of the most amazing things that happened out of the media frenzy is that we started getting calls and emails from all over the country and around the world, asking how we got started and how they could do something similar.
The truth is, we can do it because we are a part of a great community here in Kansas City, and we have amazing partners; some are groups like the Health Care Foundation that help with funding, but also food organizations like Whole Foods, Happy Food Co., and After the Harvest. Serving meals that offer balanced nutrition and taste great can only be done if you have a variety of good ingredients, many of which comes from these and other great partners.
Likewise, we can only serve restaurant-style meals when we have enough volunteers to fill those “front of house” positions, like wait staff and hosts, to greet and serve our guests. We have corporate groups from companies like Victory Chrysler, Blue Scope Steel and Cargill who volunteer monthly or quarterly as their policies allow. We have church groups that come monthly, youth groups that come on mission trips every summer, and a number of individuals who come as their schedules allow. It takes a lot of hands to serve our guests in this way, but we know that they love it and that this experience changes lives – not just those of our guests, but often of our volunteers.
Even if you can’t come volunteer, we invite you to join us for lunch and experience Kansas City Community Kitchen for yourself. It’s #NotJustASoupKitchen – it’s a community kitchen that changes lives every day.