As the face of hunger along the shoreline changes, the Community Dining Room is creating new ways to reach out and welcome individuals and families that need their assistance. Tailoring meal programs that appeal to those that seek assistance is essential to the success of the organization and thus beneficial to the participants.
“The point is to kind of address all the different groups that have needs,” says Executive Director Patricia Kral. “It’s not fair to bunch everybody up because that’s not the face of the hungry today. They are not all the same. It’s not right, it’s not a soup line.”
Each week the Community Dining Room serves over 1,000 meals to families and individuals from East Haven, Foxon, Branford, North Branford, Guilford, North Guilford and Madison.
This free service is available to anyone in the community that is in need of a free, hot, healthy meal. No one is turned away.
“In my 25 years of service here I can tell you, I’ve never experienced anybody that I thought didn’t need to be here,” says Kral. “Nobody wants to be here, that’s the big problem with feeding the hungry,” she adds.
|For 25 years, Community Dining Room has served a daily hot lunch in Branford. Photo courtesy of Community Dining Room.
People from all walks of life, including the elderly, individuals living alone and families participate in the many programs that operate out of the Branford based dining room.
While the majority of people go to the dining room to either eat their meal there or to pick up a meal, 60 homebound individuals get delivered meals Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Each delivery includes two meals, ensuring that these individuals have a hot meal for every day of the week.
“The family members have said to us that they think that their loved one would be in a nursing facility if they weren’t receiving this hot meal every day,” says Kral.
Kral has been working to make it more comfortable for individuals and families to take advantage of a service that she knows is needed by many along the shoreline.
For the past 25 years a daily hot lunch has been served in the Branford dining room. While some may choose to sit and participate in the community atmosphere there has always been the option to have the food packaged up for takeout.
In addition, for the past three years two new programs offer more variety, more community fellowship.
Every Tuesday evening families gather in the dining room to eat a healthy dinner and join in the comradery of dining with other families.
There are crafts, books and story time for the children. In addition, families are often treated to a special evening of culture and entertainment. Some of these special events have included French night, Indonesian cuisine and culture and Greek night complete with music and dancing.
There is always the option to have Tuesday evening’s dinner packaged up to be enjoyed at home. In addition, Wednesday Night Take-Out Dinner is also offered.
“So that parents can know that they call ahead,” says Kral. “They say that they’re going to come in and it’s all ready to go in brand new aluminum foil trays, just like it came from the deli, so that the kids don’t feel that they’re being disenfranchised. It’s just a very comfortable, easy way to help families stretch budgets.”
Saturday morning breakfast fortifies many local children before they head off for weekend sporting practices and games.
The Community Dining Room counts among its donors The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, which awarded approximately $4,500 in grants in 2015, from several individually named funds, to support the administration and the purchase of food for programs.
One grant was awarded through The Foundation’s Year-Round Small Grants process and distributed from one of The Foundation’s oldest preference funds, The Caroline Silverthau Fund, established in 1942 by bequest. Grants were also distributed as a result of the Community Dining Room’s participation in The Great Give® 36-hour online, giving campaign.
The Community Dining Room is serving hot, healthy meals to those in need, while also creating a community atmosphere that is welcoming to everyone and anyone who wants to participate in the programs.
“It’s a community offering,” says Kral. “It’s a place that enriches the lives of those that live here, to make a more balanced experience for us all. It’s offering another facet to your life, it’s an enrichment to the community.”
Monetary and food donations are welcomed from individuals. The Community Dining Room also has a Wish List of items on its website. To learn more, visit Community Dining Room's giveGreater.org profile.
Did You Know?
11.9% of Connecticut residents are food insecure and 4.7% are very food insecure — a slight increase from 2008. Source: End Hunger Connecticut
*This story was updated from the original to reflect a correction in the dollar amount of grants awarded by The Community Foundation.