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Feed Cheney monthly meals help foster community

Feed Cheney, which began last spring, offers a restaurant-style dinner for individuals and families in the West Plains area.

Feed Cheney
Feed Cheney at Cheney UCC church

Volunteers from the churches and community help set up and serve the meal from 5 to 6 p.m. on last Mondays of each month from September through May at Cheney United Church of Christ at 423 N. Sixth.

Feed Cheney is a safety net to assist families who need help with their food budget during the last week of the month.

The dinner, which about 40 to 80 people have been attending, is also intended as a community-building event. 

The Women’s and Children’s Free Restaurant in Spokane prepares the food.

When insurance questions arose over the summer, the Cheney United Church of Christ’s council voted to sponsor Feed Cheney.

“Mission is to church as air is to breathing,” interim pastor the Rev. Joan Sulser quoted.

Teen Helper
Teen volunteer at Feed Cheney

The idea for the program began last fall after Natalie Tauzin, a health specialist focusing on community nutrition and health access in her work with the Spokane Regional Health District, decided to do a community project related to food access in Cheney, where she has lived for seven years.

She met with members of Cheney United Church of Christ, which she attends, with the Cheney Food Bank, Second Harvest and the Women’s and Children’s Free Restaurant in Spokane.

Natalie, who previously worked five years with Washington State University’s Food Sense nutrition education program after moving from California, gathered some volunteers who helped prepare food for 50 on the last Monday in February 2010, but no one came.  Natalie took the food to the Union Gospel Mission.

Then she and other volunteers spread the word through the schools, Eastern Washington University, ECEAP, church bulletins, and the local press.

In March, more than 75 came.  Attendance leveled out at about 40 participants in April and May with 10 to 12 volunteers committing time to the event before they took a summer break.

Feed Cheney resumed on the last Monday of September, with plans to serve meals through May 2011 at the church.

Natalie appreciates that elementary, middle and high school students, as well as Eastern Washington University students, have volunteered to help set up the tables, prepare salads and serve food using real dishes and glasses.  They also stay to clean up.

“It’s like coming to a restaurant, sitting down and being served,” she said.

She seeks a volunteer coordinator to assist her and she is recruiting assistance from other churches in Cheney for volunteers, supplies, coffee and funding.

“We need to rebuild community among the churches,” she said.

Feed Cheney seeks to offer a “warm, inviting, safe environment” for everyone who comes, single mothers with children, food bank participants, older people and college students.  They are asked to sign in by first name so there is a tally, with the option of providing their email and phone number to receive reminders.

“It’s geared for low-income people in Cheney, but no one is checking and no one will be turned away,” she said.

“Everyone, not just people with money, deserves to eat high quality, nutritious foods in a nurturing environment,” she said.

For information, call 324-1659 or email ntauzin@spokanecounty.org.