Free Community Dinners Help Combat Malnutrition, Isolation
Earlier this year Burns, Oregon, found itself in the national news due to the occupation of nearby Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The community was invaded by the occupiers, federal agents, militia groups and the media. Residents’ sense of community was shaken. The city of Burns, which is 293 miles from Portland, Oregon, and 226 miles from Boise, Idaho, has a population of just under 3,000. In the midst of this chaos Pioneer Presbyterian Church in Burns, along with other church partners and the local Elks Club, continued with their project: free community dinners. These dinners, begun in 2014, were held throughout the ordeal and continued after everyone else had gone home.
The free community dinners are offered the first through fourth Sunday of each month. The dinners are sponsored and provided by Pioneer Presbyterian Church, the Episcopal/Lutheran congregation, Burns Christian Church and the Elks Club. Pioneer Presbyterian has made its fully equipped kitchen and fellowship hall available, with the community dinners’ coordinating committee responsible for cleanup and maintenance.
The county’s unemployment rate is the highest in the state of Oregon, and a disproportionate number of families live below the poverty level. In addition, the majority of people attending the free community dinners are over the age of 65. As people age, many find themselves living alone—a situation that can lead to unhealthy eating habits and a lack of social interaction, which can lead to emotional problems. The community dinners give patrons a nourishing meal and an opportunity to visit with other community members, thereby offering nutritional, emotional and social support.
Rev. Linda W. Toth, General Presbyter
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PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
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Almighty Lord, you brought order out of chaos at the creation of this world. Bless all who work to show your love and care for those around them. May the light of our Savior shine forth wherever Christians work together in your name. Amen.