Biscuits and gravy battle hunger here

Posted: Friday, December 05, 2003

A group of women from Funny River can't stop world hunger, but they can do their part to help in the central Kenai Peninsula, one plate of biscuits and gravy at a time.

The group of about eight women have been serving up their trademark biscuits and gravy and soup at the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank's soup kitchen for 10 years.

"It's a shame to have children and people be hungry in the society we live in today. Nobody should be hungry," said Brenda Cutsforth, one of the volunteers.

The women decided to start helping out at the soup kitchen after the food bank helped them. A decade ago they put together Thanksgiving food baskets for needy people in Funny River. Peninsula Grace Brethren Church donated money for them to buy food and they spent it at the food bank because their money went farther than it would at a grocery store. It was through that association that the women became familiar with the need at the food bank.

"(Food bank employees) can't do it all without volunteers," said volunteer Lou Stiles. "I know they're really hustling on the days they have to be here by themselves, so it's helpful when we come."

The women started cooking and serving lunch once a month 10 years ago and paid for the supplies out of their pockets.

The Funny River Chamber of Commerce and Community Association started donating $100 a month for them to use and the ladies upped their efforts to making lunch two Wednesdays a month. They start cooking at about 9 a.m., serve lunch and are done cleaning up by about 3:30 p.m.

"They make delicious biscuits and gravy, and they've been donating their time for many years at the food bank twice a month on Wednesdays," said Linda Swarner, director of the food bank. "They're a dedicated group of volunteers and we couldn't do the things we do at the food bank without people like the dedicated volunteers of Funny River."

In the 10 years they've been volunteering, the amount of people they serve lunch to has doubled from about 50 people to about 95, Cutsforth said.

"Hopefully it saves the food bank some money," Cutsforth said. "We had no idea what the need was, but there is a huge need in the community. It's nice to have this available to anyone... to have such a small community be able to have (free lunches) five days a week."

The food bank's soup kitchen serves lunch Monday through Friday.

There is no cost for lunch, though donations are appreciated, and anyone is welcome to come eat.

The Funny River women's biscuits and gravy has drawn a crowd since the first time they made it and got a positive response.

Harry Moore of Soldotna has been coming for about six or seven years almost every time the Funny River ladies cook, he said. His sister is one of the volunteers, and he can't pass up the biscuits and gravy.

"It's excellent food, they're doing a good job," he said.

Interacting with Moore and other lunch patrons is why Stiles volunteers at the food bank.

"We meet people here, we remember their faces ... like Harry (Moore), who picks on me all the time," Stiles said as Moore went back to the counter for a second helping. Stiles volunteers for clean-up duty since she doesn't like to cook and jokingly griped that Moore just gets seconds so she'll have to wash more dishes.

Though the lunch rush can get hectic, Stiles said she enjoys volunteering.

"I look forward to the days here, I get to see all these people. ... Most of us are retired, some are not. We just do it to help other people. When you retire, you need to do things for other people, not think of your own stuff, which we have a tendency to do."

The Funny River women are planning a fund-raiser lunch from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the soup kitchen. Anyone wanting to try some of their famed biscuits and gravy is welcome to stop by and make a donation to the food bank. The money will be used to replenish the food bank's supplies to meet Christmas needs.

Fred Bear from Fred Meyer will be on hand to greet children, and raffle tickets for a double-sized quilt made by the Funny River Quilters will be on sale for $1.

"I hope the community really turns out," Cutsforth said. "Please, please come."

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