Creating Community Around Food – Scott Schenkelberg of Miriam’s Kitchen from Michon Boston on Vimeo.

Scott Schenkelberg makes sure Miriam’s Kitchen honors its mission to provide outstanding caseworker services and nutritious and tasty meals to homeless men and women in the DC area each week. I find the Miriam’s Kitchen staff to be generous, attentive, and respectful of their guests. What is key for me is how Miriam’s Kitchen works in partnership with each guest to set individual expectations and goals. And they have the success stories to prove that it works.

When “Church Lady Cake Diaries” launched the first “Makes-Me-Wanna SHOUT!” Cake Challenge, it was with the intention and in the spirit of “church lady cakes” to support an organization that addressed a need in the Washington area and benefit from the culinary and organizing efforts of all the contest participants. In 2009, I met Catherine Crum, deputy director of Miriam’s Kitchen at a Big Read foodways activity at the then newly opened Eatonville Restaurant. We were exploring southern food for the city read of The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers.

Between our bites of hush puppies and other appetizers on our sampler plate, Catherine told me more about Miriam’s Kitchen especially the arts programs for their “guests” (persons who have no homes or food to eat, but life stories to share). Many of their guests also love to read. I was impressed how Miriam’s Kitchen didn’t just feed the body but the creative spirit. I can see why First Lady Michelle Obama volunteered to serve at Miriam’s Kitchen which inspired others to volunteer their services after her visit.

In 2010 Miriam’s Kitchen came on board as a community partner for the Big Read DC’s city read of A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines. The book was filled with more southern foodlore as symbols of love, connection, and humanity. Though the chef and kitchen staff at Miriam’s Kitchen are committed to preparing healthy meals, the guests were overjoyed that the thematic menu for the Big Read dinner included fried chicken. Guests in the arts program were invited to exhibit their artwork inspired by the book at the Tenley Whole Foods market.

For some reason it just popped out of me to Catherine. “I’d like to do a cake contest fundraiser for you.”

Miriam’s Kitchen’s doors are always open to persons who want to offer helping hands as well as financial assistance and supplies. They have a “Wish List” on Anything you purchase from the list is sent directly to Miriam’s Kitchen. You can also drop off “Wish List items” including:

Healthy cereal
Ground coffee
Men’s jeans
Men’s socks
Men’s underwear
Small tubes of toothpaste
Tote bags

Miriam’s Kitchen is located at 2401 Virginia Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20037 (Foggy Bottom),
Tel: (202) 452-8926

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