Sep 24, 2021
As a Fairview resident of 21 years, Angela Poen has enjoyed watching the town grow into one of the most prosperous small communities in one of the wealthiest counties in the country.. With that in mind, it might surprise some to know that 48,000 children in this county experience food insecurity at least once a year. Doing something to resolve that is where Poen, a former schoolteacher, has focused her efforts.
Poen has led an initiative to build the first community kitchen in Collin County that will serve meals to anyone who asks, no questions asked, and no paperwork required. The 4,800-square-foot kitchen and restaurant at 501 Howard St. in McKinney will be open from 6 to 8 p.m. daily and serve guests in a large dining space with private tables — just as they’d experience at any other restaurant.
She says while the community is blessed to have food pantries and other resources for people in need, this project fills a need for people in even more specific situations, such as not having access to a places to prepare or store food, seniors who will benefit from social interaction, or students who receive free or reduced breakfast and lunch but do not have options for evening meals.
“This is all about dining with dignity. Our volunteers will come and ask them what they would like to eat. We may have a slim menu, but we don’t want them to feel like it’s one size fits all,” Poen says. “We just want them to have the opportunity to make the decision about what they are eating.”
The idea came about seven years ago when Poen and a group of friends who were conducting a Bible study at her home stopped to acknowledge and be thankful for the abundance of food they’d all brought to share. In attendance were a couple of local school principals who brought up their personal awareness of food insecurity in the community. That sparked the inspiration to research the scope of the issue, which planted the seed for a solution.
In this episode, hear from Poen about the many serendipitous events that happened next: Finding the perfect spot of land, raising $1 million to completely fund construction, receiving donations to equip a nice kitchen, partnering with local culinary students for food prep, and developing a garden on the property that will help supply the restaurant and also serve as an educational garden for children and adults.
Poen says the building is almost complete and the organization is ramping up efforts to fully develop its volunteer base. Visit www.communitygardenkitchen.org to learn more or volunteer to help with this incredible new effort.