No matter your income or background, you never have to go without a meal. Thanks to multiple community kitchens in the Jackson Purchase area, anyone who is hungry can eat a hot, homemade meal almost every day of the week.
Community Ministries Inc. is one of the area's community kitchens that offers lunch five days a week, Monday through Friday. Located at 1225 Broadway in Paducah, Community Ministries has been serving the public for over six years.
"We always try to have a protein or some kind of meat. We always try to have a fresh vegetable, fruit and dessert," said Sally Michelson, director of Community Ministries. "We try to give them a balanced meal, because usually that's the only balanced meal they will have that day."
Michelson said the kitchen averages about 300 people a day who receive a meal. The high attendance does not leave anyone empty-handed, though.
"We are more than blessed," Michelson said. "We might run out of what we're serving that day, but we always have more food we can get from the refrigerator or freezer to make them a nutritious meal."
At least 10 volunteers work in the kitchen each weekday with an average of 60-80 volunteers a week. Anyone age 14 or over is welcomed to volunteer at the kitchen.
"We're extremely grateful for our community for supporting us," Michelson said.
Community Ministries also has plans for a new warming and cooling center at the former Family Dollar store on 13th Street and Martin Luther King Drive.
"A lot of people who come to our kitchen are in need of that," Michelson said. "We will be a permanent center so they always know where they can go, and we will have volunteers helping with that, too. We're very excited about it."
Broadway United Methodist Church hosts a community kitchen each Sunday from noon to 1 p.m. at 701 Broadway in Paducah.
Serving since 1998, meals range from hot spaghetti to sub sandwiches to special meals for holidays. Teams of teen and adult volunteers from Grace Episcopal Church and First Presbyterian Church also help with the kitchen, rotating every few weeks.
About 100-150 hungry people come in each Sunday, and the kitchen keeps up with the demand.
"If we run low on what we're serving, we bring in more food and round up people to get more. We just have to adjust," said Assistant Minister John Sparks. "Kirchhoff's Bakery has been a blessing. Whatever bread they don't sell during the week, they give to us, so we have that to give to the people. We feel fortunate that we are able to host the kitchen here and provide outreach to the community."
If you are not in the Paducah area, Marcella's Kitchen in Draffenville also provides free lunch Monday through Friday at Marshall County's Lions Club.
With the help of volunteers in the community and local churches such as Mount Carmel and Briensburg United Methodist Church, food is never wasted.
"We thank the Lord every day we have enough food," said Grace Forte, board president of Marcella's Kitchen. "Sometimes it looks like we're getting low, but we have leftovers that (head cook) Marcella can turn into a completely different meal. She can make something from nothing. She's just amazing."
Like the others, Marcella's Kitchen is "open to anyone and everyone." The kitchen is working to make access to a free meal easier for the public.
"We do have some churches that use their buses to pick up people from the apartment complexes around town," Forte said. "It's one way to reach younger people and children, too, by going to those apartments. We worry about the kids. Since they aren't in school, we don't know if they're getting fed."
Marcella's Kitchen is grateful for the community's support.
"I'm so thankful for Marshall County that they could support Marcella's Kitchen, whether it's volunteering or monetary or food donations," Forte said. "We recently got $1,000 worth of meat. That will go a long way, especially with Marcella and the volunteers. It just seems endless, the giving this county does."
Contact Katie Paxton, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8655.