MARSHALL - Esther's Kitchen, where anyone can get a free meal every Thursday at Christ United Presbyterian Church in Marshall, will soon be able to serve additional meals.
Esther's Kitchen will be joining forces with Minneapolis-based Loaves & Fishes.
Loaves & Fishes has been helping out hungry people for more than 30 years and is seeking to find locations outstate to help a broader population.
"We are Loaves & Fishes Minnesota so we shouldn't just be in the Twin Cities," said Cathy Maes, the Loaves & Fishes executive director. "Marshall is the first one of hopefully many more sites in Minnesota."
The hot meal program currently serves more than 1,700 free lunches and dinners every day in four metro counties and is able to expand to southwestern Minnesota through a two-year grant.
"We were able to land an Otto Bremer grant," Maes said. "We couldn't be happier to be here."
Maes said since Marshall already has a meal program, Esther's Kitchen, it is easier to expand that rather than set something up from scratch.
Barb Springer, a Christ United parishioner who has coordinated Esther's Kitchen for the past four years, will turn over the reins to a site coordinator hired by Loaves & Fishes. Loaves & Fishes' goal is to serve 100 people in Marshall. Springer said the most Esther's has served is 80, but it will be able to accommodate 100.
"We want it kept at Christ United," said Dave Savin, who is on the church council. "We're identified at the church with Esther's Kitchen."
Maes said Esther's Kitchen will be kept "just how it was, only better."
Margaret Palan, the community resource coordinator at Western Community Action, said Esther's Kitchen is more than just getting a good, hot meal.
"It's about not eating alone," she said.
Springer said she has enjoyed seeing the camaraderie among the guests.
"I've liked seeing the friendships people have made," she said. "Sometimes they talk outside for an hour afterward."
The new venture, which hopes to start in early May, will be called Esther's Kitchen by Loaves & Fishes.
Esther's Kitchen currently serves a meal every Thursday and Loaves & Fishes "is hoping to add a Tuesday dinner and a Wednesday lunch," said Maes.
The organization gets its food from a variety of providers, said Emily Schmitz, the director of operations.
"We get all kinds of food from Second Harvest and from restaurants - you name it, it comes in," Schmitz said.
The site coordinator makes a meal from whatever is available on that day.
"We serve a hot meal - a protein, a grain, fruit and vegetable and milk," Maes said.
Volunteers come to help at Esther's Kitchen from other churches such as First Lutheran and Radiant Life and from businesses such as Avera Marshall and U.S.Bank.
Maes said Loaves & Fishes will still need volunteers to help prepare and serve the food and clean up. More information can be found on loavesandfishesmn.org and on Facebook.