Friday Food Fest is a meal that the church offers every Friday evening at 6PM, from September to July, to members of the Washington Heights neighborhood. The mission of the Food Fest is to “provide a warm and caring atmosphere where homeless and needy men, women and children can be fed a balanced and nutritious meal, and can experience social interaction and spiritual comfort in a non-threatening environment.” All are welcome to the meal.
In addition to a well-balanced meal, guests receive clothing and referrals to other agencies for meals during the week, recommendations to local services for the homeless, and wellness informational talks given by volunteers from the public health field. The Food Fest also serves as the Upper Manhattan Coat Distribution Center for New York Cares.
During the winter, Food Fest opens early, starting at 4PM, to offer a warm space for people to gather. Guests are served coffee, tea, hot chocolate and healthy snacks. They can play board games, checkers, and other games. They can read the newspaper or just sit and talk to one another. This time allows our neighbors to warm up before dinner.
Friday Food Fest was founded in 2002. Its beginning was inspired by an Episcopal Urban Caucus workshop on church outreach. After listening to other urban churches sharing their programs, members of Holyrood began considering what they could do at the church to help members of the Washington Heights community. After much thought and prayer, members decided to feed the homeless during for that year’s Lent. The Priest-in-Charge at that time was supportive, and with members using their own resources, Friday Food Fest became a reality. The number of guest grew from 25 to over 50 in only a few weeks. After realizing how many hungry people needed the church’s help, church members resolved to continue the program.
The Food Fest currently serves about 100 meals each week. There is no paid staff working in the program on either a full-time or part-time basis. Everything–from buying groceries to cooking to serving meals to cleaning up–is done by dedicated volunteers. Some volunteers are members of Holyrood, while others are from the community. The volunteer who is the founding director of the program is Jacqui Kellum-Foster.
The children of the Washington Heights Choir School occasionally sing for the guests of the Food Fest.
For the 2015-2016 program year, Friday Food Fest will begin on September 18, 2015.