In 1979 Pastor Sam Griffin and his wife, Audry, realized there was a need for a soup kitchen in their east-side Saginaw neighborhood. It was during one of our automobile industry downturns and consequently, there were many who found themselves unemployed. Serving from the basement of their church, the East Side Soup Kitchen began in January of 1980 by feeding 15 people for lunch. The critical need they sought to meet is one we still work to address today. We average over 250 lunchtime meals per day in the Kitchen, serving Monday through Friday. We serve people from many walks of life: senior citizens on a fixed income; people with mental and physical disabilities who are unable to work; the working poor and underemployed; and men, women and children experiencing homelessness. We welcome all as our guests, from the City of Saginaw and beyond.
In 1994, another realization became evident to us. We were fortunate enough to have several after-school latchkey programs in the city, but from the time the children left school at 3 p.m. until the time they returned home several hours later, the kids went without a meal. From this unmet need, our After-School Meal Program was initiated.
As one can imagine, a program the size our ours demands facilities that are able to accommodate food preparation and meal serving for hundreds at a time. Our original locations were not designed to handle this load. The East Side Soup Kitchen started out in the basement of First Christian Church, moved to the basement of Sacred Heart Church, and then to the basement at Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church. The congregations were always very supportive of our mission, but we consistently outgrew our facilities.
In the fall of 2002 we partnered with Hidden Harvest, an agency that strives to alleviate hunger and end food waste by providing a safe and coordinated system of rescuing surplus food and redistributing it to feed people in need. Our collaboration involved raising funds and building a new handicap-accessible facility, staying within the neighborhood where there is the greatest need. The community and foundations throughout the Great Lakes Bay Region played an integral part in the success of this partnership. In October 2005, we finally moved out of the basement and into our current location! We continue to partner with Hidden Harvest to serve our community from this central location.