Cooking for Friends volunteers pack macaroni and cheese in the commercial kitchen at the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program in Brunswick. (Surrey Hardcastle photo)
Each month, Harpswell Aging at Home’s Meals in a Pinch program delivers approximately 400 meals to residents of Harpswell, many of them made in volunteers’ homes. HAH’s newest program, Cooking for Friends, enables participants to prepare meals in a commercial kitchen while making new friends.
“When we started in 2018, we delivered to about 10 residents,” said Julie Moulton, HAH’s operations and food team assistant. Since then, the number of Meals in a Pinch recipients has grown significantly.
Twice a month, two fresh and two frozen meals are delivered to 45-50 older residents to help meet their nutritional needs. Depending on dietary restrictions and personal preferences, meals may include soup, an entree, vegetables, breads and pastries. In addition to older residents, meals are available to those who may need assistance on a temporary or emergency basis because of injury or hospitalization, among other reasons.
Last fall, the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program opened a commercial kitchen in its new facility on Brunswick Landing. The kitchen is available for rent to the community. As a nonprofit, HAH qualifies for a discount. Rental includes use of the kitchen, dry storage, and a shelf in the facility’s freezer, thereby eliminating the need to transport food and supplies back and forth.
“HAH has been a longtime partner and has proven to be a successful organization which aligns with the mission of MCHPP,” said Brie Nicolaou, community kitchen coordinator for the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program. “It’s a win-win for both of us.”
Since Meals in a Pinch began, more than 200 volunteer cooks and bakers have contributed on a periodic basis. Cooks prepare a dish or baked good of their choosing in their own homes. They provide ingredient information and drop their donations off for individual packaging and delivery, though pickups can be arranged.
As the need for meals grew, so did the desire for socialization. Cooking for Friends was formed to support Meals in a Pinch and give neighbors a chance to meet and work together. Six to eight people can sign up through HAH and spend three hours cooking one of three dishes. The dishes change from month to month.
In January, the group produced 38 servings of haddock chowder, 22 servings of turkey chili, and 49 servings plus one 9-by-13 pan of unstuffed cabbage casserole. Volunteers can take part once or on a recurring basis. Moulton provides the ingredients and recipes.
Harpswell resident Libby Whittier signed up for a recent session after Googling HAH, curious about a sign she saw promoting Lunch with Friends.
“I love to cook,” said Whittier. As she thought about her “fiercely independent” parents, who live in Connecticut, and her grandmother, who lived in Bangor, she saw an opportunity to get involved in Harpswell. “This is a case of people reaching out to people who want to remain in their homes,” she said. “I really respect that.”
Cooks of all abilities are welcome. “We need people with a smile and a sense of humor!” Moulton said.
For more information about Meals in a Pinch or Cooking for Friends, contact Moulton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 207-330-5416. For more information about the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program and its community kitchen, contact Brie Nicolaou at email@example.com.