Switching to carryout, House of Bread still offers free lunch to those in need

House of Bread, a community kitchen in downtown Dayton, is now serving meals to the hungry via carryout.
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House of Bread, a community kitchen in downtown Dayton, is now serving meals to the hungry via carryout.

Now, more than ever, the hungry need help and hope — and House of Bread in Dayton is there to answer the call.

The community kitchen, which has been serving meals to those in need since 1983, is now shifting its operations to carryout for the first time in its history, in order to ensure the safety of its guests and staff members.

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Beginning on Saturday, the House of Bread began only allowing 10 people in at a time to collect coffee and a lunch in order to minimize the possible exposure to the virus. Another dining room, added on to the building last year, will continue to serve sit-down meals to a maximum of two families at a time. Single adults will have to take their food to go.

“I think that there is good news in that we’re trying to make the right decisions for the people we serve so that we can continue to serve and do so in a way that does no harm,” said Melodie Bennett, executive director of the House of Bread.

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This effort to limit the number of people inside of the facility has also extended to outside operations. Typically, the community kitchen works with a number of local restaurants and chefs to produce meals, but now, they are only working with only one outside organization, Chefs Feed Dayton, who come in after the standard operating hours to prepare meals for the next day.

Though the House of Bread has seen a decrease in the number of people coming for the free lunch, they are seeing many more new faces than normal. This decrease in attendance might be chalked up to the fact that the community that typically frequents the establishment is doing their best to quarantine wherever they can find shelter.

“A lot of our guests are in homeless situations and so their lives are already difficult,” said Bennett. “They do feel like they are more at risk by not being able to shelter in place somewhere, therefore they are trying to come in less frequently. They are trying to shelter where they can.”

However, Bennett believes that eventually the number of people seeking a free meal will increase as fear of the virus grows in the months of May and June.

Because some guests are wary of coming in contact with others during this time, Bennett and her team also do their best to send each person home with other supplies that might make it possible for them to shelter in place for a longer period of time. Anything from loaves of bread to personal hygiene products are handed out to guests, along with their coffee and bagged lunches.

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To show appreciation for her staff, Bennett posted a note on the House of Bread’s Facebook page, asking everyone to send a note of encouragement to staff members during this trying time. Currently, these words of encouragement are posted around the facility to remind her staff members of the gratitude we all possess for these courageous workers.

“We’re trying to take care of our staff as much as we can,” said Bennett.

At least for the time being (and Bennett emphasizes the importance of daily offerings to those in need), the House of Bread will continue to hand out a free lunch, coffee and supplies to guests from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., seven days a week. Those who wish to donate to the House of Bread are encouraged to only do so through monetary donations, as any physical items donated may pose a risk to staff members and guests. If you wish to donate to House of Bread, or simply want to learn more information about how to receive a free meal, pay a visit to houseofbread.org.

Until the pandemic is over, Bennett and her staff are doing their best to infuse a bit of hope and love into every meal they serve.

“People miss a sense of community,” said Bennett. “They miss being able to have someone to talk to, and you combine that fear with every rumor that is going around right now, and it can feel a bit hopeless. We do try to be upbeat when our guests are in and we try to be encouraging. I think that’s what we can do.”

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