From the Second Harvest blog:

The sound and smell of sizzling bacon greets the senses inside the Calvary Baptist Soup Kitchen on a sunny spring Saturday Morning in Downtown Spokane. Betty “Mama D” Dumas, the kitchen manager, moves around the cramped kitchen and keeps tabs on a collection of volunteers as they load freshly cooked steaming helpings of gumbo and brussels sprouts with bacon into clamshell to-go cases.

This hot meal along with turkey and ham sandwiches, granola bars, bottles of water, fruit cups, and hard-boiled eggs is loaded into bags and then packed into boxes by volunteers before being loaded into a fleet of vehicles and distributed through downtown Spokane to those in need of a free, hot, nutritious meal.

For close to 11 years, prior to the Covid 19 crisis, the Calvary Baptist Soup Kitchen, part of Spokane’s oldest primarily Black church, served a sit-down full course weekly Saturday lunch at their downtown Spokane location.

One of over 260 meal programs and food pantries that partner with Second Harvest to provide healthy food to those in need in the Inland NW, Calvary Baptist was forced to adapt and change the entirety of how they serve their clients but the spirit of giving, the thoughtful approach, and the emphasis on tasty food remains fully intact despite the pandemic challenges.

Their solution to the public health crisis? Create a mobile, delivery style, to-go soup kitchen.

“When church closed and the soup kitchen closed we prayed for a way to keep feeding the community and this new way became clear,” Dumas says as she bags up snack cookies, her apron emblazoned with the words “You’re Cooking with Big Mama”.

Dumas along with several key volunteers came together in October of 2020 in the middle of the Covid 19 pandemic and developed this new system. The first distribution produced just 25 meals but that has expanded to an average of 200 meals per Saturday distribution.

“Before Covid we could only feed 100 people a week, now we can do much more. A lot of people have mobility issues or don’t feel comfortable coming to the soup kitchen and this new way gets food to them.”

Calvary Baptist Soup Kitchen receives most of their food from a scheduled pick up at the Second Harvest warehouse and based on what produce, protein, shelf stable staples and snacks they receive, a new Saturday menu is created accordingly.

While Second Harvest’s large-scale distributions and mobile markets received a lot of attention during the pandemic that call to action represents just one portion of community impact. Agencies like Calvary Baptist are supplied with regular food orders to fuel their services and provide important hunger relief in communities across the region.

“We get all sorts of variety from Second Harvest and we can feed more people, we can prepare more types of food, hot entrees and snacks.” Dumas said. “We can do better because of what Second Harvest gives us.”

As the morning progresses, Dumas moves around the kitchen, starting new volunteers on tasks, checking on the timing of the food preparation to ensure everything is packaged and ready to go by the time the drivers show up.

After retiring from her career as an elementary school teacher in Spokane for 46 years, Dumas found a place to combine her passions for cooking and helping people at her church’s free community meal program and quickly built a reputation for her delicious soups. “I love cooking, when people come to my house, they’re coming to get some food.” Dumas said.

As the dishes from the cooking are being cleaned, a stream of volunteer drivers pull up and load their vehicles with the food bags. Everyone is cheerful, happy to be helping again, happy to be serving the needy again. Dumas is busy as always but takes time to reflect on how Calvary Baptist has adapted.

“I think this was a blessing that came out of it. We sing a song in church “A Blessing in the Storm” and Covid is our storm, and the blessing is that we can see a way to feed more people now.”