Sharing Bread Soup Kitchen a helping hand for those in need
Sharing Bread Soup Kitchen has been feeding its neighbors in the Brainerd lakes area since 1987 and looks to continue its work into the future.
BRAINERD — Serving those who need a hand — not just with food but with love and prayer — remains Sharing Bread Soup Kitchen’s mission of helping neighbors in need and has for over three decades.
“We serve seven days a week, one meal a day and it's all run by volunteers,” said Shannon Mills, executive director of Sharing Bread Soup Kitchen. “What's super amazing is that I have all of the 2023 volunteer dates filled. Which speaks volumes, yes, it speaks volumes to our community, that we can serve seven days a week, one meal a day, all by volunteers.”
Located in downtown Brainerd at 923 Oak St., Sharing Bread Soup Kitchen started operating in 1987 at St. Francis Catholic Church in Brainerd.
“This is our third location,” Mills said. “St. Francis started the soup kitchen and then it went downtown Brainerd for some time and then in this facility. It used to be part of Temple Baptist Church. This was their community building and in 2014, or ‘15, we became our own nonprofit, non-denominational Christian organization.”
Mills said she’s been pleasantly surprised this year as they had been struggling to fill all the volunteer spots in 2022 and were able to fill all the volunteer spots for 2023 about a month ago. Most volunteers are serving on a rotating schedule, Mills said. They serve about once every other month.
“The last couple of Christmases, we've had a family step in and serve on Christmas Day so we don't have to close our doors,” Mills said.
Despite the nonprofit’s name, there is not much soup served at Sharing Bread Soup Kitchen. Mills said the name remains synonymous with meal assistance and there are no plans to change it.
Each group that volunteers is in charge of their meal for the day, Mills said. They plan, prepare and serve the meal they sign up for. Some groups do everything in their own kitchens and bring in the food to serve, though the facility does have its own pantry, fridge and freezer full of food for groups to use.
“I always tell the groups to view the soup kitchen as an extension of their own home,” Mills said. “They're making meals and inviting guests in and, you know, treating them like they would treat Christ.”
Mills said she is glad they have the ability to feed those in the community who are down on their luck.
“People that come can leave our facility fed — not only their stomachs but their souls,” Mills said. “Because a lot of people are in a really tough situation that come and eat at the soup kitchen.”
Open seven days a week, Mills said they serve around 50 to 60 people a day and are planning on serving more people after extra Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits ended in March.
SNAP provides nutrition benefits to supplement the food budget of needy families so they can purchase healthy food and move towards self-sufficiency.
Sharing Bread Soup Kitchen has been donating bag meals containing breakfast and lunch to the Bridge on 7th warming shelter guests as they leave for the day, Shelter Director Ann Hunnicutt said.
“They're very thankful and a lot of them say they wouldn't make it through the day without it,” Hunnicutt said. “Some of our guests don't have SNAP. Some of them don't have any cash assistance so that's really the only food source except for when they have dinner at the soup kitchen. So it's an absolute blessing to the shelter and we couldn't be more thankful.”
Mills said they are working with other groups in the Brainerd lakes area to make sure food doesn't go to waste and instead fills the pantries and freezers of places like Sharing Bread Soup Kitchen.
“We don't ask questions,” Mills said. “We just love them no matter who they are. And we have so many different ages of people who come from different walks of life, and they can come and get fed. Everyone's valuable and has a purpose and God loves everyone, so come and eat at the soup kitchen.”
Sharing Bread Soup Kitchen, 923 Oak St., is open Monday through Saturday from 5 to 6 p.m. and on Sunday from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. More information can be found at sharingbread.com .
The warming shelter is open every day from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. and has beds available for 20 adults until May 11. Access to the shelter is at 1926 S. Seventh St. Walk-ins are welcome until 11 p.m. each night. For more information on the warming shelter, visit bridgesofhopemn.org/warmingshelter .
TIM SPEIER, staff writer, can be reached on Twitter @timmy2thyme , call 218-855-5859 or email email@example.com .