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Building Community - One Meal at a Time

The kitchen table can be considered the meeting place of the family. A group in Galesburg want to expand on that idea and make the kitchen table the meeting place of the community.

The Knox Prairie Community Kitchen (KPCK) formed last year. Organizers felt there was a need to provide meals in Galesburg and to build a greater sense of community.

Cook Laura Lytle said the food need was evident one night when she noticed a KPCK diner trying to stretch his meal by setting aside a portion for another time.

“I said, 'Why don't you eat that cauliflower and we have this extra that we can give to you,'” Lytle said. “They kind of melt your heart when you see that some people really don't have a vegetable to their name.”

Lytle and retired chef Steve Henderson prepare the meals. Dozens of volunteers help with the plating, the serving of meals, and the washing of dinnerware.

KPCK started serving dinners last fall. The meals are free and open to anyone from any walk of life, and the food is quite tasty. Diner Mark Williamson gave a glowing review with just two words.

“Goooood food!”

But the food is just part of the deal. KPCK organizers also want to build a stronger community. They want diners to know their neighbors and use the meals to talk to each other, whether it be about their lives or what's going on in town or to share a tip about a job opening.

While there is no charge to the diners, food is not free. KPCK is hoping for donations from individuals and businesses - anyone who also believes in building a better community.

KPCK volunteer Joel Ward said even the simple things make the meals well worth it.

“My favorite part is the sound of it all,” Ward said. “I really like the sound of the dishes, the cutlery, and the people talking.”

Chef Steve Henderson said leftover food is donated to the Safe Harbor Family Crisis Center in Galesburg. It's one more example of how KPCK is building a better community one meal at a time.

The meals are held on the second and fourth Thursday of every month in the basement of First Congregational Church, 60 Public Square in Galesburg. The doors open at 5:15 pm. Dinner is served at 5:30 pm. The doors close at 7:00 pm.

A listing of upcoming meals can be found on the Knox Prairie Community Kitchen website.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.