ST. GEORGE — On any normal weekday, you would find a dedicated cadre of volunteers serving up hot meals at Grace Episcopal Church, but these are not normal days.
Beginning Monday, the community soup kitchen operated by Switchpoint Community Resource Center and hosted at Grace Episcopal Church for the past seven years will move its Monday through Friday meal service, served 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m., to the outdoor pavilion at the Switchpoint complex at 948 N. 1300 West in St. George.
Although the church had been closed to the public since the beginning of COVID-19, meals were served in a takeout, curbside fashion instead of in the church’s cafeteria.
As temperatures rise, it is not conducive for senior citizens and others who depend on the hot meal provided to wait outside the church for mealtime, Rev. Tom Fiske said.
“As we continue to look down the gun barrel of this pandemic being prolonged and summer coming, we thought it best for this move to allow for people to be cool and have access to restroom facilities,” Fiske explained.
In a joint decision, it was felt that the takeout lunches served from the church soup kitchen were becoming a hardship on the homeless and those in need, challenges that would only get worse as Southern Utah marches into the hot summer months.
“The advantage of meal service at the Switchpoint pavilion is that it provides somewhat of a respite from the hot summer temperatures and affords the opportunity for social distancing,” Fiske said.
Regardless where the meals are served, it’s all about feeding everyone who is hungry, according to Switchpoint officials.
“We want to serve everyone in the best way possible,” Linda Stay, Switchpoint director of development, said. “To protect everyone from the heat, we thought that we would bring (the soup kitchen) service to our pavilion where we are having misters installed to keep everyone cool.”
Fiske and Switchpoint representatives couldn’t say if the soup kitchen will return to Grace Episcopal; however, one constant will remain at the church.
Twice a month, on the second and last Friday, the church will continue to distribute food boxes from the Utah Food Bank from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“When the pandemic passes, we will reevaluate hosting the soup kitchen’s (weekly) lunch service if and when that time ever comes,” Fiske said.
Currently, the community soup kitchen serves on average 140 meals daily Monday – Friday, for those experiencing food scarcity. Nothing will change other than the location of services, Fiske added. Clients may use SunTran bus service Yellow 4, with a stop every 40 minutes at 1300 W. Sunset Boulevard.
The only difference, Fiske said, is about an additional 2-mile journey “as the crow flies.”
At any given time, there are 25 volunteer teams at the soup kitchen consisting of eight to 10 people who dedicate their time once a month – and sometimes each week – to serve those in need.
Between 50 and 100 people or more seek a meal at the soup kitchen each day.
A typical meal is a “hearty” main course, that includes a starch, a protein, often cheese, and “always good for you” vegetables, salad and fruit. A perennial favorite is meatloaf, served twice a month.
The soup kitchen is stocked through The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Bishop Storehouse, the Utah Food Bank and the Utah Food Bank rescue food truck, which collects and delivers items daily from local grocery stores.
“What is happening now is a reset,” Fiske said. “This is a move that allows the poor to be fed, and every once in a while, you have to think what is the best way to accomplish this goal. This offers a way to reset and rethink how we do that.”
The added value is Switchpoint’s infrastructure that allows a seamless move to the meal service.
“We needed to address this,” Stay said. “This is what COVID is all about. It’s about adapting. We certainly did not want to shut down the soup kitchen. In our mind, this was not an option, and moving was a way to make things work.”
For more information about Switchpoint Community Resource Center and services offered, visit switchpointcrc.org.
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