Bread and More: Hungry’s need for food is up, donations are down

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Bennett Brokaw (left), co-president of Bread and More, along with fellow volunteers Gerry Hamill (center) and Genny Yeoman, cook dinner at Riverhead Congregational Church one night last month.

Three nights a week, at 5:30 p.m., Bread and More opens its doors for an hour to serve hot dinners to anyone who needs them. By 4:30 p.m. on those nights, people start lining up outside First Congregational Church of Riverhead, where the meals are served.

“We feed the hungry, no questions asked,” said Bennett Brokaw, one of three co-presidents at Bread and More, which is affiliated with the Interfaith Nutrition Network. “We don’t care who, what or where they come from. As long as they’re orderly, they get a hot meal.”

Bread and More serves on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at the downtown Riverhead church. It started in 1990, when it served meals just once a week.

“We’ve never had a fundraiser in 22 years,” Mr. Brokaw said. “Now, what’s happening is that there are two dynamics going on. The amount of guests we serve is up about 50 to 60 percent in the last two years and our donations and funding are down by almost the same percent, 50 percent.”

And as a result, Bread and More will be having its first-ever fundraiser this Saturday.

“Money is tight, and we’re finding ourselves in trying times,” Mr. Brokaw said.

EDITORIAL: Trying times for many — especially the hungry

The Harvest Fundraiser Dinner, as its being called, will be held at First Congregational Church on Saturday, Oct. 20, where a three-course pork roast dinner will be served in two seatings, one at 5 p.m. and another at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets are $30 per person and can be purchased at Barth’s Pharmacy, 32 East Main St. in Riverhead, or Cecily’s Love Lane Gallery in Mattituck. People also can also call Phyllis Kenny at 516-297-7810 for tickets. Tables can be reserved for parties of eight or more.

The fundraiser will be held in the same place as the “soup kitchen,” as it’s called, although it serves more than soup, and the menu will be similar to the menu served by Bread and More three nights a week.

“You’ll definitely get the feel of it,” Mr. Brokaw said, though the fundraiser doesn’t have any specific theme.

A typical dinner at Bread and More might be something like homemade meatloaf with mashed potatoes and vegetables, he said. All the food is fresh cooked and made from scratch.

“When we started 22 years ago, we basically did 25 to 30 meals a week,” said Mr. Brokaw. “Now, we are serving 15,000 meals per year. All served by local volunteers.”

Much of the food is donated. King Kullen donates bakery goods and produce, Beach Bakery in Westhampton donates bread, dinner rolls and desserts and local farms also donate produce, Mr. Brokaw said. The meat is purchased fresh, usually by the chef on duty that night, he said.

The group uses about 40 volunteers over the three nights, he said. It’s other co-presidents are Judy Barth and Deedee Newcomb.

“Some of the people we serve are homeless, but some of them are just people who can’t make ends meet,” Mr. Brokaw said. “We have people from all walks of life here. You’d be surprised. We never thought that we would be having hard times, but I guess it affects everyone, including people who donate money.”

Mr. Brokaw said they’ve been monitoring the numbers for the past 18 months and the pattern was “expenses going up and donations and funding going down.”

That’s when they decided to have the fundraiser.

Volunteers usually arrive about two and half hours before the church doors open and the last of the work is done by about 6:45 p.m., said longtime volunteer Artie Johnson.

Like those in need, the volunteers, some of whom have been doing it for more than 12 years, also come from all walks of life.

Bob Adamo said his neighbors at Saddle Lakes got him involved.

“I think it’s good for the people who come here for sustenance, and I know it’s good for the people who work here,” Mr. Adamo said. “It’s nice to feel like you’re doing something worthwhile.”

Genny Yeomans said she came here from West Hemsptead and “always wanted to work in a soup kitchen.” She’s now been doing it 12 years.

“To help people is gratifying,” she said. “It’s a wonderful thing to give back.”

Bronna Johnson, who’s been volunteering at Bread and More since 2000, said there have been times when people who served at the soup kitchen as a community service condition from the courts liked it so much they ended up volunteering after their service was done.

“We’ve had that happen a few times,” she said.

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