Parish Hall Kitchen Feeding West Chester’s Hungry

WEST CHESTER, PA — Two West Chester non-profits are collaborating to creatively address needs as they arise and change with times.

Parish Hall Kitchen is an example of adaptation to needs and circumstances, in the spirit of service. Between their original Friday Night Super Meal program, feeding people in West Chester for 35 years, to the their newest program, Parish Hall To Go that is providing prepared meal to the community’s food insecure, they are presently feeds about 83 adults and 45 children per week.

Act in Faith is the interfaith organization founded in 2010 in response to growing need in the community that resulted from the economic downturn. Executive Director Hallie Romanowski explained it was created to be a single point of entry for those whose needs lie beyond the scope of existing social services.

The organization is located at 212 S. High St., in the lower level of the Church of the Holy Trinity in West Chester Borough.

“Prior to ACT in Faith, people seeking help had to go from one faith community to the next to try to obtain the help they needed.”, she said.

“Individual faith communities were not equipped to meet with people, direct them to resources, or fill the gaps in service so they decided to pool resources,” said Romanowski.

Act in Faith was founded by Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, and Islamic faith partners who knew that together they can do more than any one could do alone.

The groups had a pre-pandemic partnership. The Friday Night Super program had long been a part of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in West Chester. In 2018, the church created a separate non-profit, Parish Hall Kitchen and the Friday meal became the first program under the new organization.

Rev. Paul Hunt and volunteer Executive Chef Joe McAllister then created a new program, Trinity Restaurant Training, in which participants earn a culinary certificate, gaining marketable skills and job experiencing working for the Friday Night Supper and Trinity Catering.

Prior to the pandemic, the program has had 3 student graduate, at a cost of $5,000 each. Ben Johnson and Beth Morinelli were in the training program when it was suspended due to COVID. They still work several hours a week to prepare the “take out” meals for Friday Night Suppers.

Romanowski explained the partnership between Parish Hall Kitchen and Act in Faith. ACT in Faith identifies candidates for the training program and provides the trainees with their uniform and materials as well as support with any number of obstacles that might keep them from being successful, such as emergency help with rent, or whatever might come up.

But, like so many things, the training program is on hold due to the pandemic so Parish Hall Kitchen pivoted and created the new program, Parish Hall Kitchen To Go, designed to provide balanced, ready to heat and eat meals to low-income households.

Romanowski said that ACT in Faith recognized that there are a significant number of single adults who have no means of preparing meals other than with a microwave. She also said that family meal preparation is a problem for many low-income households as well, something that has intensified with the pandemic. “We are seeing a significant increase in the number of families struggling,” she said.

Parish Hall Kitchen of West Chester stepped into the some gaps and a new phase of the partnership began. Chef Tom Pizzica has joined the staff and now prepares 3-5 different meal offerings per week that are distributed to shoppers at ACT in Faith’s Community Cupboard.

Pizzica’s catering business was impacted by pandemic disruptions forcing him to change his business model. He is able to support the PHK mission while operating his growing Philly Hots meal delivery service out of the kitchen at Holy Trinity.

“The meals are fantastic and people love them.,” Romanowski said. “This new phase of the collaboration between our two organizations is providing a new type of relief to our neighbors in need.

Friday Night Suppers were formerly served at 212 S. High Street, but it too had to adapt in response to the pandemic, meal are now to-go and guests can pick up on Fridays from 4-6 p.m.

The Parish Hall Kitchen says on its Facebook page: “Our goal is to serve God and our community by providing food, job training and hands-on experience to those who are un- or under-unemployed through three programs that were modeled after the ideals of Friday Night Supper: ALL ARE WELCOME.”

The West Chester community can consider donating to these organizations.

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