Volunteers give free food to Kent community

Sara Williams

DAVID RANUCCI | SUMMER KENT STATER Charity workers make and distribute food to Kent residents at the Kent Social Services South Water Street building.

Credit: DKS Editors

Kent Social Services volunteers wipe off long plastic tables. Families filter out of the doors of the South Water Street building slowly, some with food in hand.

They’re coming from a big meal – Kentucky Fried Chicken served with corn, salad, oven roasted-home fries, watermelon and dessert.

The food was served as the “hot meal,” or lunch.

Debby Missimi, Kent Social Services director of food services, said the organization’s goal is to meet the nutritional needs of the community, and anyone is welcome at the hot meal.

It seems like a lot of food, but Missimi said sometimes it’s the patrons’ one meal of the day.

Although Kent Social Services relies entirely on donations, the food is good. The service partners with companies such as Olive Garden and Red Lobster.

When people call Kent Social Services a soup kitchen, Missimi said she laughs.

“If soup is on the menu, it’s an appetizer,” she said.

After lunch, volunteers prepare a two-week supply of food from the pantry for those who are struggling.

Each person receives two paper bags stuffed with such staples as canned goods, corn muffins, bread, butter, potatoes and cereal.

Pantry-goers also receive chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs and a bag of corn-on-the-cob.

Lisa Hlavinka, senior journalism major, said she thinks the food pantry is beneficial.

Recipients of the pantry program, many of them Kent State students, pick up the groceries at their appointments.

Appointments are set to accommodate schedules and to ease any embarrassment among recipients.

“If someone feels funny about coming in, we don’t want them to feel funny about waiting in line with 100 other people,” Missimi said.

Students must show proof they are Kent, Brady Lake or Franklin Township residents. A bill or lease agreement is enough. Once entered in the system, residents stay on file for one year.

Holidays, are especially busy. Volunteers decorate and try to make the pantry look festive.

Cookies are kept in the back and are often given to children.

“We want them to feel like this is a happy place to come,” Missimi said.

Eloise Byers has been at Kent Social Services since it opened in 2000. She is soft-spoken and said she likes to help people.

“I do enjoy the job,” Byers said. “The people we get in here are very nice.”

In 2006, Kent Social Services served 36,725 hot meals.

This year looks to be a busy one, too, Missimi said.

Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. on weekdays, except Thursdays, when the hot meal is a dinner served from 4 to 5 p.m.

Contact social services reporter Sara Williams at [email protected].