How Break Bread broke out to send love

Community meal program adapts to COVID era with takeout and delivery

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Three years ago, Break Bread started bringing together neighbors for weekly meals, with the idea of feeding people hungry not just for a good meal but for companionship.

The nonprofit served a no-charge chef-prepared dinner at Littleton United Methodist Church every Saturday, drawing dozens of lonely seniors, people struggling with homelessness and addiction, and young families just scraping by. Neighbors became friends over taco nights and lasagna dinners.

But last spring, as the COVID-19 pandemic uprooted life, it also uprooted Break Bread. With the dining room shut down, the group switched to to-go meals served from a folding table outside.

Now, as Break Bread celebrates its third birthday, that little folding table has become a hub of a network that spans Littleton and the south metro area, spreading the warmth once felt in the dining room into hundreds of homes and motel rooms. People can travel to the church for outdoor pickup, or request delivery of meals.

“We’re doing pretty well,” said Paul Parish, the chairman of Break Bread’s board. “Before the pandemic, we might have fed 100 people, once a week. Now it’s 400 or higher. We’re reaching a lot of people, but we’d still like to reach more.”

The group now prepares meals on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but has also branched out into providing diapers, childrens’ toys and games, coats and clothing, and bags of non-perishable groceries for families and people without homes.

A coterie of volunteers drives meals and goods to places where people can’t make it to the church: public housing complexes, senior facilities, weekly motels home to destitute families on vouchers, and the homes of low-income families in COVID quarantine.

“I’ve been really blessed, and so many people have so many needs right now,” said volunteer driver Barb Lee as she loaded her minivan with diapers and meals on Nov. 11. “We’re the richest country in the world, but we have people going hungry. It’s rewarding to see the power of giving just a little time and a little money.”

Though most of the group’s meals are now delivered elsewhere, those who come to the pickup site at the church find camaraderie that means more than ever now.

“Just this interaction raises my spirits,” said Elaine, who asked that her last name be withheld, as she picked up a meal from volunteers. “For months I didn’t have visitors. For a while I could only see my grandkids through a screen door. People don’t want to be near you. What better place than a church to give and receive some loving energy?”

Sue Snyder, who is raising her four grandchildren, said the communal meals before the pandemic were a wonderful break. The kids could go play safely while someone else cooked her a meal for a change.

Now, though, Break Bread nights still mean a night without the hassle or dishes of cooking for her whole brood.

“Most nights I’m just swamped,” Snyder said. “It means so much to get an evening where I can relax a little bit.”

It’s good to see people get a bit of face-to-face interaction, said Kathryn Kramer, who runs operations alongside founder Jen Engquist.

“It’s not ideal, but people get to hang out and talk — some folks have told us we’re the only people they see all week,” Kramer said.

Littleton United Methodist Church has happily donated the time of their in-house chef to Break Bread, said John Ostermiller, who sits on the church’s board.

“We’ve always been involved in the community, and we have a long history of providing meals,” Ostermiller said. “We work well together.”

Parish said it’s not clear when or if Break Bread will get to host meals indoors again, but he doesn’t see the takeout and delivery service going away.

“It’s hard to believe, but we’re hoping to grow by another 50% this year,” Parish said. “We want to keep this going. People are depending on us.”

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