With a 50 percent increase in those seeking a free meal at St. Brigid’s Kitchen and Pantry in Brattleboro, the recently awarded $3,000 grant from the Vermont Catholic Community Foundation will be used to purchase more food.

The end of the year is the “hardest part of our year,” said Carolyn Pieciak, founder and former volunteer director of St. Brigid’s, which collaborates with Foodworks — a Brattleboro food shelf program — to distribute 200 Thanksgiving baskets of food.

She said support from Foodworks, the Vermont FoodBank, and funders like the Vermont Catholic Community Foundation are essential to the work at St. Brigid’s, which now provides from its front door more than 300 hot meals four days a week. (Meals used to be served inside, but Covid-19 considerations have closed the eat-in option for now.)

Because the demand for the meals has increased significantly, volunteers need two extra days for food preparation. “It’s like catering a big wedding four days a week,” Pieciak said.

St. Brigid’s has nearly 100 volunteers including parishioners, community members, students from Brattleboro Union High School, and guests.

The meals are served from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. “But people knock on our door seven days a week, and we feed them” if a worker happens to be there, Pieciak said.

One entree is served each day and may include macaroni and cheese, chicken, fish, or hot dogs with salad, vegetables, and fruit. Grafton Village Cheese donates cheese, and Hannaford’s makes varied food donations.

“We hand [the food] out to whoever is hungry. We don’t ask any questions,” Pieciak said. “I feel it’s what God wants us to do. It’s very simple. We welcome people as guests at our table.”

Missy Galanes, volunteer director, added, “We should see Jesus in everybody that comes to our door. … Our focus is to feed people.”

Pieciak pointed to a poster with a quote from Pope Francis: “By loving and helping the poor, we love and serve Christ.”

—Originally published in the Winter 2023 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.