Christ Episcopal Church Hosts Free Weekday Community Meals

Located at Christ Episcopal Church, Oberlin Weekday Community Meals strives to provide free hot dinners for all members of the Oberlin community. The service prides itself on a “no questions asked” policy, meaning the organization welcomes everyone, regardless of their possible reason for attending. Monday through Friday, from 5 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., anyone can visit the church to pick up a freshly made meal.

According to Andy McQuery, who serves as rector of the Christ Church parish, this organization is unique to the area. Though there are other food distribution centers in Oberlin, none operate with the regularity of OWCM.

“Most of them are at most once a week, maybe once a month,” McQuery said. “But nobody’s doing 80 meals a day every day, 50 weeks out of the year.” 

The program started as a sit-down group meal, but due to the pandemic, the church shifted its services to takeout and drive-up options. In addition, the program offers delivery services to Concord Manor, a low-income housing complex. People are also welcome to take multiple meals for others if needed.

“You walk in the door, you tell us how many meals you need, we will give you what we have until we’re out,” McQuery said.

On account of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of meals necessary to serve all visitors has greatly increased. Making these meals, though time-consuming, is a source of enjoyment for the two cooks, Tabatha Watson-Brown and Luis Allende, who run the parish kitchen. They spend hours a day finding, buying, and cooking fresh food, most of which is sourced from local farms and markets. The creativity and hard work put into each meal is always appreciated by the community members.

“I knew that they enjoyed [the food] because of the flavor that we put into it,” Watson-Brown said. “And besides flavor, we put love into it. We both love cooking.”

Allende, who previously worked at a food truck, shares Watson-Brown’s passion for cooking, as well as a love for community service.

“[We help] the people that don’t have ways to eat,” Allende said. “We can make it for them if they can’t cook it.”

Individuals from all spheres of the Oberlin community benefit from this program, and McQuery highlighted the variety of reasons that bring people to each meal.

“It isn’t just people who are necessarily struggling to make ends meet, although that is a part of it,” McQuery said. “There are some folks in the community with various disabilities, for whom shopping or cooking is either difficult or not really within their scope. And we’ve got some senior citizens [who come] too for the same reason.”

Christ Church opened its doors to the OWCM program in 1983. Though it is a church-run service, the staff works to make the space available for all community members, regardless of relation to the church.

“In terms of recruiting volunteers and for members of our advisory board, this is something we really wanted to be Oberlin generally, not just Christ Church,” McQuery said. 

Over the next few months, the program plans to expand its services even more in time for its 40-year anniversary in 2023.

“I think [the expansion] will diversify the communities we can serve [and] give us greater reach and opportunity,” McQuery said.

Eventually, Oberlin Weekday Community Meals would like to reopen its sit-down services, as well as continue its drive-through and takeout options. 

“Part of its mission is that we understand that for the human condition, being fed is more than food,” McQuery said. “Companionship and community is important for the soul, too.”

Oberlin Weekday Community Meals also welcomes any college student in need of a meal to stop by and grab one.