Lutheran church seeks help supplying 'Drive-By Supper'

Among the meals served at the “Drive-By Supper” include chicken Parmesan. (Photo courtesy of Jamie Kuiken)
Among the meals served at the “Drive-By Supper” include chicken Parmesan. (Photo courtesy of Jamie Kuiken)

FAIRFIELD — First Lutheran Church in Fairfield is seeking help with its weekly “Come to Supper” program that transformed from a sit-down meal to a “Drive-By Supper” in 2020.

Jamie Kuiken, one of the organizers of the event, said demand for the free meals grew steadily toward the end of 2020. The program began in January 2017, where the First Lutheran Church served a free meal twice a month in its dining room.

Two years ago, the program expanded so that the church was able to offer a meal every week.

The “Drive-By Supper” meals are served every Tuesday from 4-5:30 p.m. Reservations are not required.

In the early years of “Come to Supper,” the event attracted 50-55 people for each meal. When COVID forced the church to switch to making the meal a drive-through in the spring of 2020, attendance initially dropped to about 30 people per week. But as the year went along, word of the suppers spread, and by November the church was serving 120 people at a time, and one week served as many as 138.

Participation has fallen in January to between 80-90 per week, but that’s still nearly twice the number the church served a few years ago. What’s more, the pastor of First Lutheran Church, Greg Friedrich has taken a leave of absence for health reasons. Friedrich, who along with his wife, Gloria, and Kuiken, were the three main coordinators of the event. Three to four members of the church volunteer each week to dish up the meals and sit outside to pass them out.

Kuiken said she’s not necessarily looking for another person to help coordinate, but the church could use help in other ways, such as by getting help making the meals from other churches and civic groups. In fact, that’s how the program worked for its first three years, with various groups signing up to deliver meals to the church on a given week. Taking turns making the food prevented any one group from feeling overwhelmed. Kuiken estimates that about 25 difference civic organizations and churches have cooked a meal for “Come to Supper.”

After COVID arrived, the church announced that it was no longer accepting food from outside groups, and that it would take care of making the meals until further notice. In October, the church reversed that policy and invited local organizations to begin contributing food once more.

“We’ll get a church to donate casseroles, and then we’ll supplement it with applesauce, carrots or some other vegetable,” Kuiken said. “That’s made it easier. Once the attendance got so high, it was hard to make all the casseroles ready and keep them hot. We need about 10 casseroles each week.”

Kuiken said multiple groups can join forces for a single week if making such a large amount of food is too difficult for them.

The First Lutheran Church is located at 201 W. Briggs Ave in Fairfield. Its phone number is 641-472-4184.