After shutting the doors to a facility that previously prepared food for patrons out of the Kenai Merit Inn up until January 3 this year, The Way Café free meals program has adapted its operations to continue feeding those in need in the Central Kenai Peninsula.
Café volunteer organizer, Yvonne Meek, now delivers perishable and non-perishable food items to families, who can then prepare the ingredients in their home. The groceries are purchased through monetary donations still consistently coming into the program from community members, she said.
The program is still run through the Kenai First Baptist Church, Meek said. Many of the café’s previous patrons have moved away from the area. The only way for them to receive meals now is through a delivery service.
“Recently I received a check for $300 for The way cafe,” Meek said. “We still call ourselves that.”
Meals now come in the form of a “box” which can be a square container or grocery bags, Meek said. About 187 “boxes” have been delivered since January, she said.
Meek said word-of-mouth advertising drives the program. Neighbors or friends will tell Meek when they know someone who is going hungry.
Meek said she has a list of people she contacts regularly. Sometimes people are to shy to ask for food, she said.
Meek delivers anything that can be found at a grocery store. She said she purchases anything from frozen to fresh, meats, cheese, crackers, soups, spaghetti, and eggs, for families to make meals with.
In the last six months Meek has delivered to a young man living out of a tent and an older gentlemen based on the Kenai beach. She also said from time to time she will meet people who are not necessarily in a dire enough situation to receive aid, and she will take them off the list.
“I try to be very discerning with this,” Meek said. “I want to use people’s money well.”
Meek said the furthest she has delivered is Sterling, but people have gotten food supplies from the café as far out as Cooper Landing. She said one man who had been diagnosed with cancer and was commuting to Kenai for treatment was able to take a box back home with him.
Meek said as long as she is able and as long as there are resources to do so, she will continue The Way Café.
She also receives assistance from members of the First Baptist Church of Kenai with the deliveries.
Meek said there will always be poor who need help. Meek said the best way to get in touch with The Way Café is to contact the First Baptist Church, or herself at 907.252.3670
Kelly Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org