KANSAS CITY (Mennonite Mission Network) – Brady Woods said the reason
he did a Servant Project on Tuesday morning before MennoCon19 began was
so that he wouldn’t remain stuck in his ways.
for the lunchtime crowd NourishKC promised to challenge his own perspective. Woods, a member of the Berlin (Ohio) Mennonite Church
youth group, prepped for lunch and waited tables during lunch with more
than a dozen of his peers and several adult sponsors.
hoping that today I get moved off my comfort zone,” he said. “Sometimes
it is so easy to get stuck in patterns, and I want to keep changing. I
don’t want to get complacent.”
Complacent is probably the last
thing Woods could be as the doors opened at 11 a.m. That’s when a rush
of individuals and families from all walks of life came pouring in for
the free, nutritious meal, bringing in the summer heat with them. Lunch
would be served for two and a half hours, and
Woods took orders
at for the meal – a choice between sesame chicken or pulled pork along
with salad and fruit -- as other peers washed dishes, greeted patrons,
got drinks and bussed tables. The hungry individuals and families with
children from the neighborhood as well as construction laborers and
other kinds of workers received both a hot meal and a warm welcome from
the Berlin youth.
Providing nutritious – often rich in
locally-grown fruits and vegetables – noon meals is what NourishKC is
dedicated to doing, Monday through Friday. The non-profit’s mission is
to build a food-secure region in the Greater Kansas City area. It does
this by providing healthy food and by empowering people to move beyond
the barriers of poverty with dignity – i.e. the “fine dining” experience
of choosing from a menu and being served by a waiter.
operation for nearly 30 years, NourishKC operates several food programs,
including Kansas City Community Kitchen, a network of emergency food
pantries and meal programs and food rescue. Formerly, it also sponsored
the Culinary Cornerstones Training Program, which it discontinued
temporarily this past January.
NoursishKC coordinator Linda
Aguilar set a positive, non-judgmental tone for the noon meal
experience, when she helped to orient the Berlin group to their
volunteer job for the day.
“Don’t assume everyone who comes in
those doors is in the same category, because they’re not,” she said.
“Not everyone who comes here is homeless, though they may be. Sometimes,
you have police officers and even medical personnel who come in from
the heat from the mobile unit they run outside.
“We don’t distinguish between who is who. We simply treat them all like kings and queens.”
up huge portions of human dignity with healthy helpings of food is a
main priority for the non-profit, said Erin Bassett, food service
director for NourishKC and a professional chef. “One of our main, core
values is that we believe having access to healthy food is a basic human
right,” she said. “And when we have volunteers like the Mennonite group
of kids today, we are able to serve our meal restaurant style and give
people options from the menu.
“So often the folks we serve have
stood in lines all day for other services, only to be told at the end
of that line that they don’t have a choice in what they are given.
“Choice is huge for human beings, even though many of us take that for
granted. It is dehumanizing not to have a choice.”