The meals offer residents a way to save money in an already tight budget, an option outside of trying to cook for one and a chance to share a meal with other community members.
Across the county, more than a dozen churches have set up a meal program to make sure that no one in the community goes hungry.
Residents can find a meal nearly every day of the week, which churches in Greenwood, Franklin, Edinburgh and the Center Grove area all participating.
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“Our goal was to have a meal every night of the week somewhere in the county someone could participate in,” said Ginger Murphy, a volunteer.
The community meals started in 2010 at Under the Sun Cafe in Whiteland, which was a cafe and church rolled into one, Murphy said. The cafe was shuttered in 2013. At the time, about 250 meals were being served a week, she said.
Volunteers were hoping churches would take up the cause to feed the community. And they did.
“This was to supplement the food pantries that are around and to provide people (a chance) to talk and get to connect with other resources that might be available,” she said.
Turning Point Church in Franklin was one of the first. Soon, phone calls and emails to churches in the county looped in about a dozen more.
“It has been fun to watch that happen,” Murphy said.
Almost immediately, some of the churches were feeding dozens of people, with at least one church reaching 75 people during their weekly meals.
Churches are responsible for everything needed to run their meals, from fundraising to serving.
Volunteers at Turning Point Church stir pots of chili, assemble pans of lasagna and bake cookies for about 40 to 75 people for their weekly meals.
As a church, it is their job to help the community, and fighting hunger is a good place to help, said Roger Atkison, volunteer at the church.
“We had the people to do it,” he said. “Hunger in kids is about the worst thing you can think of.”
Church parishioners like chatting with the people who come to their meals and get to know the regulars, Atkison said.
Soon, the meals feel like family for some who make it weekly.
Jane Childers of Franklin, and her 1-year-old granddaughter, Snow, go to a community meal about three times a week.
Childers’ adult children work second and third shift, leaving her and Snow alone for dinner. Rather than cook for just them, Childers would rather drive to Turning Point church or to Greenwood to find a meal with a sense of community, she said.
“It gives us a chance to get out of the house and meet people,” she said.
Part of the goal of offering the community meals is to allow churches and diners a chance to connect and for churches to make connections with the community, Murphy said.
Volunteers at the churches can get to know the people who come and can help connect them to other services they might need, she said.
Diners at Grace United Methodist Church can get connected to other ministries throughout the church that could help them pay a utility bill, find a place to stay or get counseling, said Andy Kinsey, pastor at the church.
The church has adopted helping people in poverty as their larger mission. Feeding people once a week helps with their mission goals, he said.
“Here at Grace Church it’s just kind of fallen upon us that we have a focus in our church on hunger, poverty and homelessness,” Kinsey said. “It is one of those things that has come together for us.”
Here are the community meals offered for the rest of the month. The calendar for additional upcoming meals is available by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
5 to 7 p.m., Turning Point Church, 3600 N. Morton St., Franklin. On the menu: spaghetti, garlic bread and dessert.
5 to 6:30 p.m., Tabernacle Christian Church, 198 N. Water St., Franklin. On the menu: baked spaghetti, salad, garlic bread, dessert.
5 to 6:30 p.m., Mount Auburn United Methodist Church, 3100 Stones Crossing Road, Greenwood. On the menu: spaghetti casserole, green beans, salad, garlic bread, chocolate pudding.
6 to 7:30 p.m., Edinburgh Church of Nazarene, 716 S. Eisenhower Drive. On the menu: Chef’s choice.
5 to 6:30 p.m., Grace United Methodist Church, 1300 E. Adams Drive, Franklin. On the menu: goulash, garlic bread, applesauce, dessert.
4 to 6 p.m., Honey Creek United Methodist Church, 2722 S. Honey Creek Road, Greenwood. On the menu; chef’s surprise.
5 to 6:30 p.m., Greenwood Christian Church, 2045 Averitt Road, Greenwood. On the menu: chicken salad sandwiches, pasta salad, mixed vegetables, dessert.
11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Greenwood United Methodist Church, 525 N. Madison Ave., Greenwood. On the menu: chef’s choice.