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Mondays are meal days at Open Hands Midway, housed at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in the Midway. By noon, when the doors open, the line sometimes snakes around the corner of the building and guests rush in to shop for the free groceries and clothes offered, alongside a free hot meal. On a typical Monday between 12 and 2 p.m., 150-200 meals are served.
A few blocks away, on Thursdays from 1-3 p.m., Zion Lutheran in the Midway hosts a meal and provides free groceries. A community has grown up around this noon-time meal. Birthdays are celebrated. Prayer requests are made before the tables are dismissed to go through the lunch line. Many people arrive before noon and stay past two, visiting with their friends, sharing updates with volunteers, and appreciating the opportunity to sit together in a safe and warm space.
When COVID-19 arrived, both ministries were forced to make difficult decisions about how to continue serving their neighbors in safe and responsible ways. At Zion, spacing dots now encourage guests to keep distance between themselves and only five people are allowed in at a time to pick up groceries and the take away meal. Open Hands Midway discontinued Monday meals until a plan for take-away meals could be put into place. They will resume with take-away only meals on Mondays, beginning May 4, and will also offer a free bagged lunch on Wednesdays, beginning May 6. The food pantry is open on the second and fourth Tuesdays from 12-2 p.m. with prepackaged bags and boxes. All Open Hands Midway programs will be handled with no-contact service. Bethlehem’s Street Ministry, which serves a meal on the third Saturday of every month from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., will also provide take-away only meals, beginning on May 16.
While both Zion and Bethlehem were making plans and revisions to their regular programs, Shobi’s Table approached Bethlehem, inquiring about the possibility of parking the big blue truck in the Bethlehem parking lot on Fridays. Beginning last Friday, Shobi’s Table is parking in Bethlehem’s lot from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (or when they run out of food), serving with non-contact service, with six feet of space between folks, and staff wearing masks and gloves. To-Go/Take-and-Heat meals will be available in brown bags.
Together, these ministries are feeding the Midway…and beyond!
Zion is located at 1697 Lafond Ave. (2 blocks west of Fairview) in St. Paul. Bethlehem/Open Hands Midway is located at 436 Roy St. N. (a block southwest of Snelling and University). Shobi's Table is a food truck ministry, a mission development of the Saint Paul Area Synod.