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Fighting Hunger: Thank you to partners for providing free community meals

My church, St. John’s Episcopal Church in Palmerton, has been providing free community meals since 1976. When I started Whitehall-Coplay Hunger Initiative in 2015, I already knew several pastors in Whitehall and Coplay. I had contacted every Whitehall and Coplay church and scheduled a meeting in October 2015 to plan the WCHI 2016 meals.

During this October 2015 meeting, we discussed that these sit-down, dine-in meals are intended both to feed our low-income Whitehall and Coplay residents and to give them a social outlet to interact with others. No registration or income-limit paperwork would be required. Guests just come in, sit down and are given a hot meal. That day, all WCHI’s 2016 free community meals were scheduled for the third Tuesday of each month with our faith-based partners.

WCHI and our faith-based and other partners have grown over the years. Before COVID-19, we had been providing these free community meals twice a month. A huge shout-out goes to everyone who has helped WCHI with these meals from 2015 through today. Some partners host more than one meal a year. Our guests are truly appreciative that we offer this outreach program.

During COVID-19 when it was safe, we provided a drop-and-go-takeout meal program. In 2023, we now returned to sit-down, dine-in meals. There are no longer any takeout meals. Our community guests benefit from dine-in meals with both socialization and a nutritious hot meal. Before COVID-19, dine-in meals were a huge event for our guests. It still is a social time to dine out with friends, both old and new. Several dress up for the occasion. It is also OK if a guest wants to sit alone.

WCHI and our meal host partners are glad to be back inside to see the happiness and a sense of normalcy from our guests. All low-income Whitehall and Coplay residents are welcome to attend both meals, set for 4-6 p.m. the first Sunday and third Tuesday of each month. Meals are guaranteed for the first 100 guests and will be only an inside sit-down meal.

WCHI posts a meal reminder on Facebook and Instagram. Our pantry guests also receive a meal text reminder. We also provide this year’s meal schedule fliers for the guest to take home, and the meals are posted on our website.

Next month’s free community meals are Feb. 5 at St. Peter Roman Catholic Church, 4 S. Fifth St., Coplay, (610-262-2417) and Feb. 21 at Whitehall Bible Fellowship Church, 3300 Seventh St., Whitehall, (610-434-8661).

Our partners and meal host chairs are happy to participate in the free meal program, as evidenced by the below quotes.

“St. Elizabeth of Hungary parish in Fullerton is honored to host community meals every March and November. It gives us the opportunity for our parishioners to come together in good fellowship to prepare and serve a delicious meal to our community. We look forward to our March dinner and hope many will come to enjoy the meal with us.” - Mary Spieker

“Whitehall Active Community Center hosted its first community meal in January 2023. Being a community center as well as a senior center, we decided to give back to our local residents by offering a free community meal through WCHI. It was a huge success, and we hope to host more in the future.” - Lana Snyder, center president

“The First Presbyterian Church of Hokendauqua has always been a family- and neighborhood-oriented church, committed to helping our community where needed. When asked to do a community meal for WCHI, we were glad to be able to help those who need food security and fellowship by doing what we like to do - feeding people.” - Sue Butchinski

“Here at the Muslim Community Center, when we host a free community meal, we see the opportunity to fulfill one of our religious duties to feed people. We cannot describe the joy and the pleasure it brings us while serving our community.” - Deeba Jamal

The Muslim Association of the Lehigh Valley hosts three meals.

“We show the love of God by our commitment to meeting the needs of the community. We thank WCHI for the privilege and the opportunity to be a blessing. We look forward to hosting three WCHI meals for the community this year.” - Pastor Bola Akomolede of Redeemed Christian Church of God

“St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church’s mission statement is: Feeding People, Body, Mind and Spirit. When the opportunity arose to assist WCHI to provide a free community meal to local residents, we felt we could help our neighbors, as well as fulfill our mission statement. We are happy to host two meals per year.” - Lana Snyder

“Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church has always had a passion for helping others. Our church hosts regular food drives for the WCHI Food Pantry. SOTH hosts two free community meals for WCHI every year. We are committed to serving our community.” - Karen Haberern, WCHI free community meal chair

She can be reached at 610-730-8184.

WCHI also has Whitehall Bible Fellowship Church providing four meals, St. John the Baptist Church providing one meal and St. Peter Roman Catholic Church providing two meals. Thank you, everyone, for helping WCHI feed our community.

Have a great week!