Church members learn to prepare meals in big batches

Gerald Powell turns a tray of roasted potatoes in the oven last Wednesday at West Jackson Street Baptist Church in Tupelo. (Lauren Wood)

Gerald Powell turns a tray of roasted potatoes in the oven last Wednesday at West Jackson Street Baptist Church in Tupelo. (Lauren Wood)

Ginna Parsons/Daily Journal

Some churches in Northeast Mississippi don’t feed their congregations on a weekly basis; others offer up a potluck while a few hire professionals to prepare their meals.

“We’ve been doing this for 10 to 12 years, probably,” he said. “At one time, we had the Wednesday meal catered because we didn’t have the facilities to cook. When we upgraded, we started doing it in-house.”

Powell said the same basic group of eight to 10 volunteers meets every Wednesday to prepare enough food to feed anywhere from 80 to 150 people, counting some carry-out plates.

“We’ve got a 15-year-old all the way up to senior citizens helping out,” he said. “It’s just a total team effort.”

In July, he sat down and planned the weekly menus through December.

“Our meats are on about a 10- to 12-week rotation,” he said. “We try to stay away from fried stuff because of people’s diets. Chicken, pork chops and fish are the only things we fry. Everything else is either grilled or oven-roasted.”

This past Wednesday, the team fixed fried chicken, oven-roasted potatoes, pinto beans, cole slaw, rolls, cornbread and banana pudding.

“We have to do things that we can get ready between 2 o’clock when the first volunteer gets here until 4:45, when we start serving,” he said. “And no matter what we fix, it’s gonna be somebody’s favorite.”

At Auburn Baptist Church, Cindy Henry, the pastor’s wife, is the Wednesday night meal coordinator.

“We’ve been doing this for about three years,” she said. “It started out with us cooking and delivering meals to shut-ins. Now, it takes 15 to 20 volunteers on a monthly basis to run the Wednesday night meal and do the shut-ins. I guess we serve around 150 on a weekly basis.”

Henry said she gets her recipes from different cooks in the church and from a church cookbook.

“I throw different seasonings into recipes all the time,” she said. “We don’t do a lot of prepared foods. We do home cooking as much as possible. Cooking for a crowd – the Lord gifted me in that area.”

At Spring Hill Missionary Baptist Church, volunteers gather to cook meals to take to the sick and shut-ins after Sunday services.

“I guarantee you it’s been 30 years or more that we’ve done this,” said Zanthia Slaughter, a kitchen committee member. “Sometimes, members from the music department or the men’s choir will do it. Next Sunday is my day to plan and prepare the meal.”

Slaughter plans to fix pork roast, stewed potatoes, green beans, rolls and cupcakes.

“We usually cook for 10 to 20 people, but we always make more than that,” she said. “I usually count on fixing for 25.”

ginna.parsons@journalinc.com