Loaves and Fishes program thrives in Archuleta County

In January 2004, five women were discussing the need for a “food kitchen” in Pagosa Springs. The Senior Center offered meals on weekdays at a modest cost, but was closed on Thursday, leaving their clients without a nutritious meal. From that discussion came their commitment to provide that meal.

The women wanted this service to be faith based but non-denominational, open to everyone without question as to need, and for their guests to be seated at a table with a tablecloth, real dishes and cutlery, and to be served as they would be in a home or at a restaurant.

Their first priority was to find a building with a kitchen and a place to seat their guests. They could not afford to pay for the space, and the only place that seemed feasible was the parish hall at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church. The pastor at Immaculate Heart of Mary gave them permission to use the parish hall and kitchen.

The next challenge was how to obtain the food. After negotiation, the local City Market agreed to supply surplus meat, bread, bakery goods, and other staples as available, on a weekly basis. The women agreed to purchase what was needed to complete the planned meal, and to cook and serve it.

Thanks to publicity from the Pagosa Sun and word of mouth, they were soon serving close to 200 meals each Thursday. They eventually realized that this service required more than they could handle alone, and so this “labor of love” evolved into an organization with a 501(C)(3) non-profit tax exempt designation. They operated under a board of directors, and were able to participate in the Feed America/Colorado Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado program.

Loaves Fishes2 450x350The organization is staffed entirely by volunteers. Those who cook and serve from the kitchen are under the guidance of a professional cook and kitchen facilitator who complies with food handling regulations. The volunteers come from many of the Pagosa Springs churches and civic organizations and agree to sponsor one day monthly, or as they are able, and to cook, serve, and clean up after closing. The menu is chosen from what is in the pantry and freezers, and often the volunteers pay for the extra supplies needed to complete the meal.

Statistics for the year 2014 are not available yet, but in the year 2013 a total of 13,084 meals were served. Of those meals, volunteer drivers delivered 1,236 meals to the homebound. The organization is not financially funded, and relies on donations and grants for financial assistance.

If you are in Pagosa Springs on a Thursday, from 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m., come join us.