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Feeding the hungry

Meal ministries see increase in need

Feeding the hungry

Volunteer Neil McBride adds some mayonnaise to a tub of egg salad at the United Samaritans kitchen on Tuesday. McBride and his wife, Ophell, have volunteered two days a week making food for the Dai...

POSTED October 22, 2010 10:36 p.m.

Neil and Ophell McBride and Lucy Okuye are egg salad experts. For the past nine years, the three Turlockers have volunteered their amateur culinary talents to making enough egg salad to fill 700 sandwiches every Tuesday. The sandwiches are then distributed to hungry people across the county through the United Samaritans Foundation Daily Bread ministry.

Every week day, four Daily Bread trucks deliver lunches and extra food items to people in Turlock, Denair, Keyes, Hughson, Ceres, Waterford, Southwest Modesto and Hickman. While United Samaritans receives a few grants to help pay for the lunch program in Ceres, Keyes, Hughson and Southwest Modesto, the majority of funding comes from private donations, said Maris Sturtevant, assistant director of USF.

The egg salad was made possible by the 450 dozen eggs donated by Gemperle Farms every week, Sturtevant said.

On Tuesday, people who came to one of the Daily Bread truck’s 10 stops around Turlock received a sandwich, a loaf of bread, a container of milk and fresh roma tomatoes donated by a local farmer.

“It’s a blessing,” said one woman waiting for the lunch truck at Sunnyview Park on Tuesday. “People would go hungry without it.”

United Samaritans is just one local organization looking to fill a basic need that an increasing number of people are lacking — daily meals.

The Turlock Gospel Mission and Westside Ministries are also feeding the hungry in Turlock.

“We feed people every night of the year,” said Turlock Gospel Mission Executive Director Jeff Woods.

TGM uses a partnership of local churches to provide their meal ministry. Men, women and children gather at First Baptist Church on W. Olive Avenue at 5:15 p.m. every day. They are then bussed to one of the mission’s partner churches where they are invited to join in a meal with the congregation. After the meal and a short devotional, the guests are bussed back to First Baptist.

Over the past year Woods has seen an increase in the number of people seeking meals. In 2009, TGM served 10,391 meals — an increase of 2,580 over 2008.

“It’s picked up a lot with men, women and children,” he said. “It’s a tougher economy right now. We’re seeing a lot of new people.”

For years Westside Ministries —an organization that provides social, educational and spiritual services to children and families on the Westside of Turlock — served a meal on Wednesday nights and lunches for those kids who were out of school when there was year-round tracks . Two years ago, the ministry started serving dinner four nights a week.

“We had children who were asking to go home with myself and other staff members,” Westside Ministries Founder and Director JoLynn DiGrazia said. “We didn’t know why and so we went to a few homes and found out parents who were working class poor, or for other reasons, couldn’t provide dinner.”

Since then, Westside Ministries volunteers have been cooking up meals for children and adults Monday through Thursday.

DiGrazia said the best part is that a portion of the food they use is grown by the kids in the Westside Ministries garden.

“The kids get to eat their own food,” she said. “Not only is the food fresh, but they’ve contributed to it.”

When they started cooking meals four days a week, they served an average of 70 to 80 people each night. On Wednesday, Westside Ministries served 220 spaghetti dinners.

“Now, I can’t remember a night we haven’t served over 100,” DiGrazia said.

United Samaritans, Turlock Gospel Mission and Westside Ministries are reliant on donations and volunteers to provide their meal ministries.

To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.

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