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Church kitchen helps others tighten operations to improve ministry

Church kitchen helps others tighten operations to improve ministry

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Church kitchen helps others tighten operations to improve ministry

By J.A. Buchholz | Jan. 6, 2009 {0959}

United Methodist churches and food seem to go hand-in-hand, and a ministry begun by a Lakeland church aims to help others put both to use in a more fruitful way.

Kitchen workers from United Methodist churches across the conference get a lesson in large group food production at a kitchen operations ministry seminar at First United Methodist Church in Lakeland. Photo courtesy of Michael Stasiak. Photo #09-1078.

Michael Stasiak, manager of food services at First United Methodist Church in Lakeland, recently organized a kitchen operations ministry for churches that want to use their kitchens to their fullest potentials.

Stasiak said he began the ministry after several ministers inquired how their church kitchens could better serve their members and community. He said the result was a kitchen operations seminar in September.

The Lakeland church kitchen holds an event 25 days of every month, Stasiak said. Some are church-related, and some are for civic groups that meet at the church on a weekly basis. Stasiak says there’s no reason why other United Methodist churches can’t use their kitchens as effectively.

Church kitchens are almost always in use, he says, but few have any solid direction. The seminar was the first step in getting kitchen employees and volunteers to communicate with each other, as well as possibly cutting operating costs by purchasing common items in bulk.

“There should be some form of unity,” Stasiak said. “I want kitchen people to have a voice and be able to work together. I want this to be a real ministry and not continue to have kitchens doing things on their own.”

Stasiak said he mailed invitations to the seminar to 300 of the largest United Methodist churches and was surprised when 50 people attended.

Marian Warner is still excited about that gathering. The volunteer chef at First United Methodist Church in Sarasota said she was pleased with what she learned.

“It was well-done and informative,” she said. “It was good to see how other churches do things. I got a lot of good ideas.”

A kitchen worker samples some of the cuisine that could be prepared for a large group. Photo courtesy of Michael Stasiak. Photo #09-1079.

Warner’s church kitchen provides about 200 to 250 meals for the homeless each week, luncheons for community groups and church fellowship dinners.

“I think serving meals at church helps to bring about a family atmosphere,” she said.

Serving families in the church and surrounding neighborhoods is something all churches should want to achieve, Stasiak says. To that end, the seminar covered how churches can serve meals that are appealing to a wide variety of ages by selecting high quality food products.

The experience of not being able to provide food in a crisis prompted Belinda Freisinger to attend the seminar.

The campus manager at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Indialantic, near Melbourne, said the church kitchen was shut down a few years ago while attempting to serve prepared hotdogs by the roadside for people who didn’t have a way to prepare food at home after a major hurricane hit the area. Freisinger said the Brevard County Health Department wanted the church to be certified and licensed. The church has since achieved both, as well as investing $100,000 to update and improve its kitchen.

“I wanted to attend the seminar because now that we have this nice kitchen, we don’t know how to best use it,” Freisinger said. “We want to see what we can do with it, and the seminar gave us some ideas.”

A former restaurant owner manages the church kitchen, but it’s good to know what other church kitchens are doing, Freisinger said.

Church kitchens operate according to what their church and community demand, Stasiak said. With the struggling economy, he says many families are using the church’s Wednesday night dinners as a way to eat out without taking a major hit to the wallet. The maximum a family will spend at the Lakeland church is $20, Stasiak said.

“We have a tremendous amount of families that come,” he said. “It is relatively low-cost, with adult meals priced at $6 and children at $3. We really want to promote family events. Churches and food go hand-in-hand.”

Seminar attendees take at tour of the kitchen at First United Methodist Church in Lakeland. Photo courtesy of Michael Stasiak. Photo #09-1080.

Stasiak said both church members and families from the community attend the dinners. Having non-members in the church environment, he says, is a plus for churches.

Stasiak hopes to hold a kitchen ministry operations seminar a few times a year and is planning a second one in the spring.

“I wanted to start this ministry because churches may not be able to do it on their own, but it’s not that difficult,” he said. “They just need some guidance, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

More information about the ministry is available at

News media contact: Tita Parham, 800-282-8011,, Orlando

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a freelance writer based in Seffner, Fla.