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Community Meals brings people together and feeds souls

Community Meals brings people together and feeds souls

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Image: PLU and Trinity Lutheran Church are partnering up for a new collaborative dinner series, Community Meals. Community members gather around a table enjoying October’s meal and company. (All photos provided by Rev. Jen Rude)

December 1, 2023
By Britt Board
University Relations

Looking at the packed tables, “the smiles on their faces, the sense of community, and the appreciation they express are incredibly gratifying,” says junior Rayen Slama, a Tunisian exchange student at PLU who volunteered for the October and November meals.

Community Meals unite many people — on and off-campus — for a shared purpose: to feed people, build community, and create connections. Organized by PLU’s Student Care Network Manager, Susan Pavur reflects that the dinners are “bringing people together and feeding souls.”

It started with a few PLU staff and students chatting in the living room of the Wellbeing Services & Resources house, taking stock of PLU’s assets and community needs. Those conversations then led to what is now Community Meals, a monthly community dinner hosted at Trinity Lutheran Church. These dinners are a result of a recognition that people were already doing good work at PLU and in the neighborhood and that those efforts could be tied together in service of others.

“Lots of different groups had dovetailing skills and strengths, and we just put two and two together,” says Eva Frey, Dean of Students.

Community Meals center community

The PLU Pantry works in partnership with The Kinesiology Department to create healthy menus based on the ingredients that are available in the pantry. The PLU Pantry, in partnership with Campus Ministries and Trinity Lutheran Church, then plans and promotes the monthly meals. The PLU Community Garden, which is cared for by PLU’s Center for Diversity, Justice & Sustainability, donates fresh vegetables to the meals – including over 40 lbs of kale for the October dinner! PLU’s Student Care Network provides leadership and coordination. Then, PLU students volunteer during the event hosted at Trinity Lutheran Church, helping to prepare food and serve the community.

More than 100 individuals, driven by a shared commitment, attended the inaugural event in October. Among them were Trinity Lutheran Church parishioners, students, PLU employees, families, and other community members. People from PLU and Trinity Lutheran Church volunteered their time and talents to provide healthy meals for community members on/off campus and in the neighborhood, addressing a local need to support those who are experiencing food insecurity.

“Volunteering at the dinners provides me with a chance to connect with residents of the area, meet fellow volunteers, and build a sense of belonging that I might not otherwise experience,” concluded Rayen, who made apple crisp for the first time at the October dinner.

This collaboration showcases the transformative impact of leveraging assets and skills to address community needs, illustrating the synergy of community in action.