Around a few nondescript corners in Emmanuel Baptist Church, sit rows of brown paper bags, piles of white bread, and trays of deli meat waiting to be assembled. This is the headquarters for Lunch is Served, a Sioux Falls nonprofit that has worked to provide sack lunches for manual and day laborers in the city since 2006.
The organization is entirely volunteer-run, with the exception of executive director Kathy Junker, who took the reins last July after being involved as a volunteer herself for over eight years.
Though Lunch is Served may maintain a low profile in the Sioux Falls business world, it’s bringing major change to a state where 68 percent of households receiving emergency food assistance include at least one employed adult. Last year alone volunteers from Lunch is Served provided more than 22,000 sack lunches to workers across the city.
“For some people, lunch is the only meal they’ll get all day,” said Junker. “I really believe in our mission, that all people need our help, and it’s rewarding to help people who are trying to help themselves.”
Meals are assembled and packaged at Emmanuel Baptist on Mondays and Wednesdays each week. The church isn’t affiliated with Lunch is Served, though they’ve been donating space to the nonprofit for the past 10 years. Other local businesses also offer support, including Hy- Vee on East 10th Street, which donates all of the bread for sandwiches, and Smithfield Foods (formerly John Morrell & Co.), which provides the deli meat.
“Sioux Falls is a very generous community,” said Junker. “We’ve been supported by numerous businesses here through donations, and by individuals and teams coming together to volunteer.”
Junker calls Lunch is Served “an ideal volunteer opportunity for everyone,” since no training or certification is needed for those interested. From church groups and PEO ladies to elementary students and local businesses, volunteer teams are made up of pretty much anyone looking to use their hands to fill a need in their community.
“Everyone can get busy packing the lunches,” said Junker. “Last week I had volunteers from 7-year-olds to 86-year-olds. I think it’s impactful for people to see the progress happening right in front of them.”
Teams are asked to raise $350 each time they pack to cover the cost of supplies, and the rest is donated by supporters of Lunch is Served. Typically 250 lunches are assembled in a one-hour volunteer time slot.
WHAT’S IN A LUNCH IS SERVED MEAL
» BREAKFAST BAR
» FRUIT CUP
» MEAT AND CHEESE SANDWICH
» UTENSILS, CONDIMENTS, AND NAPKIN
» KEY INGREDIENT: ENCOURAGING NOTE FROM A VOLUNTEER
“THOSE WHO RECEIVE OUR LUNCHES WORK HARD JOBS FOR NOT A LOT OF PAY, AND THEY’RE JUST ABOVE THE POVERTY LINE. THESE ARE THE PEOPLE THAT WE SEE EVERY DAY. WE CAN RUN INTO THEM AND NOT EVEN KNOW.”
Lenora Bezpaletz has been volunteering at Lunch is Served every week for the past decade. She and Junker actually grew up next to each other. The women even remember going over to the other’s house for playtime and snacks.
“I really enjoy seeing the beginning and end of a project,” said Bezpaletz. “I like the idea of helping someone who wants to work, it’s very fulfilling and I respect that.”
One of Junker’s favorite parts of heading up Lunch is Served is interacting with people like Bezpaletz; people who are working to improve their community without necessarily getting recognition for their efforts.
“The people who receive these lunches know there are groups helping to pack them, but it’s not like we hand them a lunch face-to-face or write a company’s name on the bag,” said Junker. “If we can continue helping people it’s just a ripple effect down, one person helping another that continues on.”
LUNCH IS SERVED LUNCH DISTRIBUTION CENTERS
» THE BANQUET
» COMPASSION CHILD CARE
» LABOR READY
» LSS CENTER FOR NEW AMERICANS
» ST. FRANCIS HOUSE
Junker hopes to continue that “ripple effect” into the second decade of Lunch is Served, cutting down on those who go hungry one brown paper bag at a time.
“Not one of us could do this alone,” said Junker. “We’ve had overwhelmingly positive support from the community, I think it really resonates with people that we’re working to improve lives.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT LUNCHISSERVED.ORG.
2ND ANNUAL LUNCH IS SERVED CELEBRITY CHEF SANDWICH BATTLE
JUNE 20 // 4:30 – 7:30 P.M. // REMEMDY BREWING COMPANY