A History of Food and Fellowship at Platteville UMC

Food and Fellowship was a mission that was started in 2020 as one method for bringing community members into the church and serving food insecurity needs in the community. There are no income requirements for this mission. The original concept was to have a free community meal each month in Fellowship Hall. After the meal, there would be activities for children (messy church) and opportunities to interact in faith with one another.

A committee consisting of Jan Holloway, Tracy Harle, Dustin Nunn, and Dawn Drake, along with Pastors Brenda and Rafael have done the planning for this mission. April Richardson provided the artwork for the mission, which has been used on program advertisements. The original plan was to have different members of the congregation help at the event each month. Due to the pandemic, Platteville UMC has kept the people involved to a minimum. In the fall, the church started having members contribute desserts for the meal.

Due to the coronavirus, PUMC was only able to hold their first meal inside in March. The church canceled the April event due to the stay-at-home orders in Wisconsin and restarted the mission as a drive-thru option in May. PUMC has continued the drive-thru option for the remainder of 2020.

The seed money for the mission ($4,000) was obtained by a grant from the United Methodist Foundation. One component of the grant was to identify how the church would keep this mission continuing after the grant monies had been expended. PUMC has now received a grant from the Platteville Community Foundation ($2,000) to use in 2021. The church has also obtained co-sponsors for each of the monthly meals. Each co-sponsor contributes $250 and five volunteers for the event.

The church has received donations of food toward the event and uses leftovers from Ruby's Pantry for many of the meals. The PUMC had originally approached businesses to donate to this mission, but with the pandemic, many businesses have been unable to donate. PUMC will pursue this more in the future. The church also collects free-will offering from participants at each meal. PUMC will continue to pursue grant opportunities, donations, and co-sponsors for the mission as it continues.

When PUMC started Food and Fellowship, they served 140 meals. This number increased each month and they now serve over 250 meals each month. Organizers had bookmarks and posters printed to advertise the monthly event. In addition, information about the event is handed out to Ruby's Pantry guests and emails are sent out to those guests, the senior center, and the Platteville School District each month.

Due to the pandemic and lack of people at churches and other businesses, the posters did not have the impact that was hoped for, although since many other things have been cancelled, the posters are prominent in many of the area businesses. In the fall, PUMC also started distributing bookmarks through the Platteville Food Pantry. An article also appeared in the Platteville Journal and another article will be written for the paper in December, focusing on program partnerships.

Each month, door prizes are given to guests. Program organizers collect names, phone numbers, and emails of each person and draw for door prizes at the end of the evening. The following day, someone contacts the winners and delivers the prize to them. The original intent of this process was to promote area businesses who donated door prizes and to use the contact information to invite people to additional activities in the church. Since the church building has been closed, there has not been outreach to this group of people, but the plan is to do so when PUMC is back to worshipping in person.

PUMC keeps the congregation informed about Food and Fellowship by writing articles for the newsletter and putting updates in the weekly emails that go out to the congregation. Prayer cards are handed out to each participant, which lists the co-sponsor for the month and any other contributors toward the meal.

The meals served typically include a dessert, vegetable, and fruit. The main courses have included:  soup and sandwiches, brats or hot dogs and potato salad; beef stroganoff and lettuce; baked ziti or chicken alfredo; scrambled eggs, sausage, and pancakes; meat loaf and mashed potatoes with gravy; pulled pork sandwiches with mac and cheese; sloppy joes and cheesy potatoes; and chicken and rice casserole and coleslaw.