Giving back by setting the table

By Tala Alsharif
Jambar Contributor

Youngstown State University students facing food insecurity can visit local organizations such as Dorothy Day House and Our Community Kitchen to receive free meals.

Dorothy Day House is a nonprofit, volunteer-run organization that serves meals from 5 to 6 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. About a 15-minute walk from campus, Dorothy Day House is located at 620 Belmont Ave.

Daniel Wakefield, co-coordinator of Dorothy Day House, said the nonprofit also provides shower services every Wednesday in the afternoon.

“We provide the towels, washcloths, the soap, the shampoo,” Wakefield said. “We also provide people T-shirts, undergarments and socks for them after they take a shower.”

The organization relies on local foundations and donors for funds. Some donors, such as organizations, individuals and churches, donate meals.

Additionally, some volunteers cook in the kitchen or donate meals from local businesses.

“We’re very deliberate about choosing local business owners, specifically women and minority owned business owners, who do catering,” Wakefield said. “We really do believe that that’s very important.”

Dorothy Day House is operated through the Sisters of the Humility of Mary, the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown and Youngstown Catholic Worker. The organization has an open-door policy and doesn’t require registration. Students can stop by if they need an evening meal or a shower.

Our Community Kitchen has operated for eight years and is open for breakfast Monday through Saturday 7 to 9 a.m. and for lunch 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The kitchen is located at 551 Mahoning Ave. and takes about 20 minutes to walk to from campus.

Meals are typically prepared in the kitchen, but some are donated.

Annette Hagerty, manager of Our Community Kitchen, said the organization aims to help everyone in need. Students can get a meal and hangout in the community room, which has computers and WiFi.

“We let anybody come. If you have a job, if you don’t have a job, if you’re homeless, and if you’re not homeless,” Hagerty said. “We accept everybody.”

According to Wakefield, one of the factors contributing to food insecurity in Youngstown is a lack of access to healthy, nutritious foods. There are also national trends impacting residents.

“Things like inflation … reduction of SNAP benefits, in some cases rising rent costs,” Wakefield said. “All those things make it very difficult to sometimes afford food.”

Wakefield said Dorothy Day House focuses on being hospitable, compassionate and personable to their guests. Volunteers are encouraged to sit and eat with people who come in.

Additionally, Dorothy Day House volunteers have a strong belief of upholding the dignity of people in need. Wakefield says the organization services meals on proper dinnerware to preserve guests’ dignity.

“Part of the mission of that is showing people the dignity of eating a meal on a typical plate you’d eat at home,” Wakefield said. “That is the basis really for all the services we provide.”

Wakefield said Dorothy Day House meets the emotional needs of people who are marginalized and feel like they don’t belong.

“By forming a community here, where people feel accepted, welcomed and valued … I think that makes a big difference,” Wakefield said.

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