SILVER SPRING — One Acre Farm in Dickerson handed 500 cabbages over to Manna Food Center on Friday. While the produce wasn’t perfect enough to sell, it was good enough to eat.
Working in a new community kitchen in the basement of the Silver Spring United Methodist Church, Manna staff and volunteers turned the leafy, green plant into zesty cabbage and Kohlrabi slaw with citrus dressing to distribute among the County’s 75,000 food-insecure residents.
On Saturday, a red ribbon was snipped, marking the opening of the community kitchen, which will take misshapen or bruised produce and create dishes to distribute.
The kitchen sports a shiny new refrigerator, dishwasher, freezer, and three sinks; it’s the scene of nutrition education, cooking classes, and recipe sharing.
The kitchen is a partnership that goes far beyond the church and Manna. Government funds were used to cover costs, chefs from the Marriott assisted in coming up with healthy recipes that are easy to make, and the community-at-large, which sends volunteers to the church to both prepare food and distribute it. Also involved are the nonprofits Interfaith Works and KindWorks.
Manna CEO Jackie DeCarlo referred to this cooperation as “the Montgomery way,” adding, “We are all our neighbors.”
Mary-Margaret Stacy, a church member who spent three years working toward making the community kitchen a reality, said helping those without enough to eat fulfills the church’s mission of feeding people “in body, mind, and spirit.”
DeCarlo’s coworker Aaron Sirrila added that Saturday’s opening proved that “Locally, we can make a difference.”
Rev. Angela Flanagan explained that Silver Spring United Methodist Church’s food ministry “involves food, but it also involves dignity.” When receiving food, “People are called by their name and treated with the dignity they deserve.”
Former pastor Rev. Rachel Cornwell noted that the location of the church, at the busy intersection of University Boulevard and Colesville Road, was a perfect location, because it sits “in the middle of two six-lane roads,” across from Montgomery Blair High School and close to 12 bus stops.
U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who was praised during the opening for his efforts to secure funds for the community kitchen, called it “thrilling to see it come to light. You guys today are the hope in dark times…It always seems like we have enough money for the things we don’t need, like war and family separation.”
Chuck Short, special assistant to County Executive Ike Leggett, called it inspirational to see what could happen when people “insist upon justice for our residents.”
Addressing those who came for the free food packages, Short vowed, “You will overcome your current conditions” and someday return to volunteer to help others.
As the opening ceremony wound down, the 45 people who had signed up to receive food walked around the shelves and tables of food with one volunteer, picking their allotment of meat, produce, bread, grains, and frozen food. The amount of food given each person is determined by the number of people in his or her household.
As Olga Hersilla chose a loaf of bread, she called the fresh and canned food she received “a big blessing.”
Volunteer Taylor Williamson, who carried his one-year-old daughter Hazel in a front pack, seemed equally thrilled. “This pantry is my way of working with people.”
Manna, which is located in Gaithersburg, collects and distributes about 3.5 million pounds of food yearly to 11,000 families.