Food & Hope: Can't Have One Without the Other

Posted on April 20, 2016 by Catholic Charities Admin  |  Share

Catholic Charities Meatloaf Kitchen - a Prime Example

By Katie Tamola

Catholic Charities Meatloaf Kitchen serves up food and hope

At Catholic Charities Cardinal Spellman Center this past Saturday, April 16, guests and volunteers alike left with their plates empty and their hearts full.

“Treat people as [if they were] guests in your own home,” Uche Osuji, the operating manager from University Community Social Services, urged Meatloaf Kitchen volunteers during orientation.

Meatloaf Kitchen is a program run by University Community Social Services. It originated in 1982 and aims to offer hungry New Yorkers an inviting, restaurant-like atmosphere. The kitchen has been open every Saturday for the past 30 years. Catholic Charities has worked with Meatloaf Kitchen for several years and hosts the event.

The space had about ten long tables decorated in picnic-esque red and white plaid table clothes. The ten Beatitudes hung on an elongated sign behind the tables. The environment felt calm and welcoming. It did indeed offer a feeling of warmth that one could find at his or her home. 

As an onlooker, I was amazed by Osuji’s graceful, warm, and passionate leadership style. Volunteers all had the same purpose: to serve.

 Katie Tamola is a native New Yorker, aspiring writer and high school English teacher in White Plains.  She also volunteered to write about volunteers at our recent "Meatloaf Kitchen."


Volunteers from Catholic Charities worked jovially amongst the rest of the volunteers. Every individual had an essential, meticulous job and every individual wore a warm and welcoming smile.

Joe Montano, who has worked with volunteers from University Community Social Services since 1989, spoke warmly about Catholic Charities and how it has benefitted Meatloaf Kitchen.

“You lent us use your space! Catholic Charities helped transform this from an unfinished basement into a beautiful space,” Montano noted. 

Guests at Meatloaf Kitchen are just that. They are guests. The space operates like a restaurant.

Every single volunteer utilized every single minute. Volunteers assembled food, escorted guests to their seats, spoke with guests, and worked collectively to serve. The volunteers exhibited diligence, passion and patience.

I watched as about 200 guests arrived and were served in just one hour. Guests sat down for a plate of meatloaf, salad, beans, and egg salad. Guests were also welcomed to bananas, bread, bagels and vanilla and chocolate-frosted cupcakes for dessert. Waiters served water, milk, orange juice and coffee.

“This place is amazing. The volunteers are awesome!” Anthony Cepeda, a guest, happily exclaimed.

Laura Schultz, a member of the Catholic Charities Junior Board, enjoyed her first experience at Meatloaf Kitchen.

“I was doing New York Cares before,” she said. “ I was looking for faith-based volunteer opportunities, so I joined Catholic Charities. It’s been great!”

Meatloaf Kitchen is an amazing organization thatprovides people both food and a sense of community. Meatloaf Kitchen’s website reads, “Because everyone deserves fresh, delicious food.”

Each Catholic Charities volunteer wore a dark, navy blue shirt that read “vol-un-teer; [vol-uhn-teer’] VERB: 1. TO PROVIDE HELP; 2. TO CREATE HOPE” on the back.               

Meatloaf Kitchen is an excellent program that reminds volunteers and guests alike: hope can be achieved anywhere, and food will always bring us together.

Check out these great photos of food, hope – not to mention meatloaf – now.