I was raised Baptist. My Irish Catholic father wasn’t crazy about us being raised in a protestant church, but it was how my mom was brought up, and she got carte blanche on being the architect of me and my brothers’ little lives. Attending services at both churches, I understood that there were differences, but there was the connecting thread of principles and parables throughout both. One of my favorites to listen to was the parable of the loaves and fishes. My church put a big emphasis on food, and the idea of five loaves and two fishes feeding the fellowship hall was preposterous to me, let alone 1000s. Each time I listened to the story I was happy to know that everyone had gotten fed all over again as if I had never heard it before. Each time the heart of the story remains the same; take care of those who need to be taken care of. Feel something good and pass it on.
5loaves2fishes is a community outreach group organized by Michelle White that is feeding the food insecure with homemade meals made with intention, care, and love. She won’t even knead the homemade bread she bakes for sandwiches if she’s not in a joyful mood.
“We try to make as much healthy food as possible made with as much love as possible. I make the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on bread that I make that day. My biggest thing is that we make as much from scratch as possible. We try to put hearts on everything. Every loaf of bread has a heart or cross carved in it. As long as I don’t forget,” said Michelle.
The volunteer group is appropriately named for two reasons. One, because they’re feeding the hungry. Two, they do a lot with a little. They work out of Leland Community United Methodist Church and the meals they churn out are made strictly with donated food items. Drool-worthy meals, I might say. Baked ziti, macaroni and cheese, pizza from scratch, cookies, lemon bars and so much more look like a delight that anyone would be excited to have for dinner.
“A lot of what we are given is what drives what we make. There was just pork butt on sale and we already had cabbage so we made coleslaw with it. The other day we made four pans of these mini squash. Everything is really fresh and really homemade.”
5loaves2fishes initially was hatched to feed the food insecure during early grapplings with the pandemic. They started with feeding families in need.
“It’s really anonymous, I don’t know anything about [the families] other than I want to give them really good food. We don’t ask any questions, you could be the President of a bank and say that you needed a meal and I’d give it to you.”
The outreach group would drop off boxes of meals in Olseon’s parking lot, where it would be picked up by another outreach member and delivered to the families. Methodist Central Church offered them a kitchen to work in and a time slot to take meals out to the community for a Monday night outreach too. Which turned into feeding the homeless folks every Monday evening at Veterans Park near the Commons, a weekly tradition that they’re still keeping up for now. A first Instagram post on their page said they planned on feeding people into fall. With the end of the year a month away, they have no plans of stopping yet. They’ll be moving their operations to Safe Harbor the 30th of this month, where they will be doling out their delicious dinners through the upcoming bitter cold.
They have a strong community supporting them. Businesses like the Leland Merc, Island Thyme Catering, and Cater Leelanau have all donated to 5loaves2fishes. Spices, baking tools, ingredients and even the woodfired pizza truck that Island Thyme used over the summer have all been gifted to the community outreach program.
Local people also help out in ways big and small, from those that volunteer every week, to those that drop off food, to those that drop off freshly baked cookies to provide an end of the meal treat. Michelle is always looking for those in need of a meal, and those who want to help make it. If you weren’t raised in a church kitchen, you might find that it’s a community microcosm of love and laughs that can lift your spirit with a magic all its own.
“Just a couple hours one day a week. It makes you feel good. We have oldies playing, we laugh together. It’s not your average church kitchen.”
If you can’t volunteer time, consider donating money or food items. All meals prepared are from donated items ranging from baking ingredient basics, to canned items, to fresh fruits and vegetables and meat.
“I have a place for anything that comes in, but fresh fruits and vegetables would be really ideal.”
I think about Anthony Bourdain’s writing a lot, and how he often he intertwined it with his love for cooking. He said, “When someone cooks for you, they are telling you about themselves. Where they come from, who they are, what makes them happy.” A dinner from 5loaves2fishes tells people that they care and that providing good food is what makes them happy.
“Food is an act of self-care and self-love that we all need to take care of ourselves. We all deserve a good meal.”
For anyone looking for help or to help, contact Michelle at firstname.lastname@example.org
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