Let's be honest - it takes a certain amount of courage and commitment to come to something like Hearth & Table for the first time. You have questions. We'll answer as many as we can here, but you are always welcome to reach out if we miss some!
Is this for me?
Are you a student of a local university or college? Would your quality of life be improved by a free, nutritious, hot meal on Thursday nights? Then yes.
We know that there can be stigma and shame around hunger and discomfort identifying whether one "qualifies" as food insecure. But look - the Hearth & Table community is largely composed of students just like you: cooking, eating, laughing, cleaning up together. No one is asking about the status of your bank account or what you've eaten that day. "Diners" and "volunteers" are interchangeable and blurred categories. We're family-style here, and there's a lot of room to grow. Just come!
Okay, then. What is Hearth & Table?
Hearth & Table is a community kitchen and meal active on Thursday nights of the UO/LCC academic year, designed especially for students.
Chef Ryan Josef-Maier hosts the kitchen from 4:30-6:30, working with students to prepare that night's meal, offering tips and insights to help bolster cooking confidence - recipes are vegetarian, often with vegan and/or gluten-free options and drafted in coordination with the Student Food Pantry. Diners are always welcome to sign up to volunteer!
During the pandemic, we only distributed packaged meals for convenience and safety. This year we are returning to the ability to offer on-site community dining, and we can't wait to eat with you again! We've had such a wonderful group of students from a variety of local colleges/universities eat with us family-style at round tables. There is no religious programming, but a diversity of fascinating conversations, card games, study tables, and laughter.
We learned a lot during the pandemic though, and recognizes a demographic that needed meals, but couldn't stay to eat; so, this year, we are continuing distribution of packaged meals alongside our on-site community dining.
More specifically, when and where is Hearth & Table?
Hearth & Table is operated out of Central Lutheran Church, 1857 Potter St, right across 18th St from the Pioneer Cemetery. The best entry point is through glass double doors at the base of an accessibility ramp, facing the parking lot between the church and University Street. These doors lead you in the Parish Hall of the church, where tables for dining are set up. When the weather turns cooler, we have tea set out if you arrive before the food - we try to serve meals promptly at 6:30pm, so come while it's hot.
Meals packaged for distribution will be made available once the family-style meals go out to tables. You can come pick up a meal to go between 6:45 and 7:30pm.
Okay, but it's a church. So, there's religious programming?
There is not now, nor will there ever be, religious programming associated with this meal. Yes, Hearth & Table is a program of Good Soil Lutheran Campus Ministry and is hosted by Central Lutheran Church. What we do is part of what it means to us to follow the Way of Jesus - promoting your health and dignity is a spiritual commitment for us, not a spiritual prescription for you.
We sincerely understand student hesitance. Offering free food is a staple strategy employed by most anyone working with student populations to incentivize coming to one's events/programming. (An effective lure, because hey... student food insecurity!) The difference here is, at Hearth & Table, getting nutritious food into your body is the event/program. It is a critical value for us that we offer non-discriminatory access to our meal site.
We are grateful to be an agency partner and grant recipient of FOOD for Lane County, and to be supported in collaboration with UO Basic Needs, UO Duck Corps, and the Student Food Pantry.
Chef Ryan Josef-Maier... why is that name familiar to me?
We are so lucky to have him! Chef Ryan is the Kitchen Manager of FOOD for Lane County's Dining Room downtown, but is best known to students (apart from Hearth & Table, of course) through cooking class collabs with the UO Duck Nest and a few guest spots instructing on the UO campus.