Roughly 400 to 600 people come into the Franciscan Center daily to partake in the Hot Lunch Program and enjoy a hot, healthy meal prepared on-site using fresh ingredients. In 2019, the Center served over 130,00 hot, healthy meals. In partnership with the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and others, the Center has launched several healthy food initiatives and regularly provides highly nutritious meals that contain fresh fruits and vegetables as well as high quality proteins. The Franciscan Center was the first “soup kitchen” in the country to participate in the national Meatless Monday initiative. Every Monday, the Center serves a delicious vegetarian meal such as lentil shepherd’s pie, vegetable lasagna, or three-bean meatless chili. We now offer an evening meal each Tuesday and Wednesday between 5:30 and 7:00 p.m., our “Community Dinner.
Working in partnership with Johns Hopkins, United Way, and Gather Baltimore, the Franciscan Center has gleaned thousands of pounds of fresh vegetables and fruits to serve to our neighbors in need. This program has expanded to include donations from area farmer’s markets, supermarkets and restaurants. Gleaning has made it possible for the Center to cut our cost per meal served by as much as 40 percent, while at the same time increasing exponentially the quality and nutritional value of the food we provide to poor and hungry citizens of Baltimore. Every Tuesday night, volunteers chop vegetables for the week ahead.
The Franciscan Center’s Emergency Food Pantry offers our guests a choice of the regular bag of groceries of a healthy bag, which is stocked with low fat, low sodium items such as brown rice, ground turkey, fresh and frozen vegetables rather than canned. We’re pleased to report that more than 40% of our guests are now choosing this healthy bag.
In addition, the Franciscan Center partners with the Maryland Food Bank to offer fresh vegetables, fruit and other foods to our neighbors in need through our “Pantry on the Go” food distribution events. These events are held six times a year at the Franciscan Center. In our last fiscal year, with the help of 300 plus volunteers, we distributed 58,010 pounds of vegetables, fruit and other food items to 2,320 area families (4,106 men, women and children).