First Nations Kitchen – An outreach ministry of All Saints Indian Mission, Minneapolis
Eight years ago, when the circle of people who had interviewed me for the clergy position at All Saints Indian Mission in south Minneapolis shared their vision and hopes for their church, one goal particularly piqued my interest: the offering of a feeding program. The members wanted to restart a “soup kitchen,” a program which they started but had had a difficult time maintaining consistently. There were a few reasons that contributed to their stop and go but central was that the priest, The Rev. Melanie Spears (Dakota), leading the vision, had to take an early medical retirement. She led the congregation over the toughest hurdle: the construction of a fine commercial grade kitchen. Upon her retirement the vision of a feeding program would be one of the charges that the new priest would take on. I had volunteered in this type of outreach off and on before. My immediate thought was that this vision of the people of All Saints was a call from God. I soon accepted.
After I was installed as their Vicar, I spent the next two years preaching and talking about this outreach ministry, as well as raising the necessary funds. More importantly, we gathered as a dedicated group of people who would help see this ministry to its eventual fruition. I hoped that this outreach ministry would be unique both to All Saints and to the community that it served and named it First Nations Kitchen (FNK). Core to the program would be the serving of Indigenous and organic food. This fare would not only be healthy and wholesome, but would also hearken back to our ancestral diet and model healthy eating habits. Other great ideas were formed by the team and put into place. We began serving a sit down dinner on Sunday evenings from 5:30-6:30. This first meal was served on the Feast Day of All Saints in 2008. FNK will celebrate its sixth year anniversary on All Saints Sunday and I am happy to say in spite of holidays and difficult weather conditions that we have never missed a meal! We also give away organic produce and fresh bread to the guests. I am scheduled to cook on the sixth day of our volunteers helping out from St. Martin's-by-the-Lake, Minnetonka, MN. While we do not regularly serve dessert, as we try to model healthy eating habits, we will celebrate with a cake that night!
The All Saints Faith Community has always been small and so in order for any outreach ministry to work and be both successful and sustainable we rely on and are deeply grateful to our volunteers coming from partnerships with other faith communities, organizations, and our neighborhood. Partners during the 2014 year include:
Episcopal Faith Communities
Trinity, Excelsior (youth)
St. Mark's Cathedral
St. John's, Linden Hills
St. Christopher's, Roseville
St. James-on-the-Parkway, Minneapolis
El Santo Niño de Jesús, St. Paul
St. Mary's, St. Paul
St. John the Evangelist, St. Paul
Holy Apostles, St.Paul
St. Stephens, Edina
St. Martin's-by-the-Lake, Minnetonka
Calvary Cathedral & Trinity Church, Sioux Falls, SD (youth)
Other Organizations and Faith Communities
First Nations United, Minneapolis
The Breck School, Golden Valley
United Church of Christ confirmation class, Vermillion, SD
Urban Ventures' Urban Trek Program, Minneapolis
First Nations Kitchen is also profoundly grateful for the culinary skills of:
Charmaine (Sr. Warden of All Saints and Kitchen Manager), Carrie (long time youth minister), Cindy from Trinity, Beatriz and Angeles from El Santo Niño, Abe (neighbor and youth minister), Fr. Robert Two Bulls, Veronica from St. Mark's Cathedral and the occasional guest cooks and chefs as approved.
In December, we look forward to the Episcopal Church in Minnesota’s Bishop and the team of Missioners who will be volunteering for the first time on December 14.
Fundraising and Gifts
We received a grant to purchase a whole buffalo for the meat and hide from St. Stephen's last year. The hide will be tanned and used in raising funds. We were surprised and moved by an anonymous donation for the purchase of a buffalo by a Lakota Viet Nam Vet, who is a regular guest at the kitchen. Two years ago, we used a grant to renovate the waiting area and a space for a FNK office. Included in this grant was the construction of raised garden beds, replacing much of the church lawn. We grew veggies and herbs with generously donated plants from St. Edward the Confessor, Wayzata, as well as heirloom seedlings which were started inside the church by Charmaine, the Kitchen Manager. All Saints’ newly appointed Deacon, the Rev. Jim Shoulak, and his wife Judy have generously donated 1/2 acre of their farmland in Corcoran, MN (30 minute drive from FNK) which we are preparing to farm in the spring/summer of 2015. We will raise primarily “The Three Sisters” (corn, squash and beans) using heirloom seeds.
This year we also formed a relationship with St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Lompoc, CA. Members of this parish send us bags of beans every month which are grown in that region of California. On Saturday October 11, there was a music fundraiser and silent auction at Famous Dave’s Calhoun Square in Minneapolis. One of the bands giving their gift of music is Blue Dog, a well-known Minneapolis based Native blues band. This will be our second year of hosting this event.
As we approach FNK’s sixth year, we remember that the Gospel continues to call us out, as do our Traditional Native Ways, to feed the hungry and help the stranger. We are currently visioning on expanding this work by adding a few more meals during the week. It has been our experience that tremendous good has come out of this concerted effort to live out this call. Relations are made.
In The Spirit,
The Reverend Canon Robert Two Bulls
Missioner for The Department of Indian Works
Vicar, All Saints Indian Mission
We host, along with St. Mary’s in St. Paul, MN
For more information look for us on Facebook and visit our website at www.firstnationskitchen.org.
First Nations Kitchen: Partnerships Create Success
Early on Saturday mornings, Charmaine Bird rolls her truck up to the back door of a co-op warehouse. Boxes of organic fruits and vegetables will be carefully stacked in the back – the first step for a multi-stage weekend ministry, one that brings together produce, an “awesome eclectic dive bar” and faith communities from around Minnesota in a food ministry orchestrated by All Saint’s Episcopal Indian Mission in Minneapolis…