Entering its sixth year of existence, the Lawrence Interdenominational Nutrition Kitchen has seen a jump in the number of guests at each meal, organizers say.
"It must be that there are more people who are hungry out there," said Pam Casagrande, LINK board member, while assisting coordinator John Allen prepare for a recent meal.
Local churches, civic organizations and individuals donate food and time to provide hot meals and mealtime companionship for people in need. LINK serves meals from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays, Sundays and the last Friday of every month, as well as occasional holidays such as the fourth of July and Labor Day.
WHEN THE kitchen first opened on Valentine's Day of 1985, it served an average of 60 guests at each meal. Numbers have grown almost every year and the average to date for 1990 is about 100 guests per meal. The average in August was about 106 each day.
Casagrande said crowds might dwindle slightly when school resumes and children can take advantage of school lunches.
Allen agreed, "Since the beginning of the summer, numbers have really increased. We don't often see kids during the school year, but we've been feeding a lot of kids."
The summer months usually keep LINK volunteers on their toes, although the kitchen stays busy throughout the year.
"We've never seen any sort of consistency in the numbers," she said. "It never seems to go up or down in any logical fashion. There are people who use it on a regular basis and there are some people who just come here for a short time."
VOLUNTEERS usually fix the meals at home and serve them in the basement of the First Christian Church, 1000 Ky.
"Other than a very small government grant, we are completely dependent on the public," Casagrande said. "We feel that the people who come are our guests and the kind of information we'd have to get from our guests to get more aid, is not something we want to ask for.
"We work strictly on donations. Those donations go for kitchen and cleaning supplies, paying our coordinator, and we also give a small donation to the church for the use of the building."
Casagrande said the city's needy can eat a nutritious meal every day. The Salvation Army, 946 N.H., serves on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, excluding holidays, and the Secular Franciscans serve a sack lunch from the garage of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, 1229 Vt., every Saturday.