There is something cooking in St. George. Momma’s Kitchen is a nonprofit organization with a unique recipe for feeding Washington County residents.
“We are a 21st century soup kitchen with a twist,” says founder Elizabeth Davila. “We have created a concept where the traditional soup kitchen of receiving food and the traditional restaurant have combined. We truly can be defined as a community kitchen and restaurant.”
Momma’s Kitchen identifies its main goal as providing Washington County residents with a hot, healthy, nutritious, and delicious organic dinner regardless of income, race, religious belief, or gender.
“Normally, when people visit a soup kitchen for a bowl of soup or sandwich, they pick it up and head to the street or parking lot to eat,” Davila said. “At Momma’s Kitchen, we are creating an atmosphere where people actually visit our community kitchen and restaurant for a sit-down meal. They will be able to sit down at a table with plates, glasses, silverware—just like any other restaurant in the United States—to enjoy a delicious, hot meal.”
The integration of the community kitchen and restaurant will serve to bring the community together by offering free meals to those in need and funding it by selling meals for a donation. Momma’s Kitchen will ask everyone who receives a no-cost meal to volunteer 30 to 60 minutes. Volunteer service will be performed either at the community kitchen and restaurant or at one of the local nonprofit organizations they have partnered with in the community. Since Momma’s Kitchen is also a restaurant, meals can be purchased for dine-in or take-out for a donation. The purchased meals will both provide a hot, healthy, nutritious, and delicious organic dinner to the person purchasing the meal as well as fund meals for those unable to pay.
Momma’s Kitchen concept was created as the solution to a problem in St. George
“Living in the downtown area, I see a lot of people on the streets that are homeless or struggling to make ends meet, and I wanted to do something about this,” stated Davila. “I grew up in a single parent home, and we were on food stamps. I remember the last week of the month was always very difficult. We didn’t have any food stamps left to buy food. So, we ate white rice and beans with eggs for dinner. Sometimes, we ate this everyday of that last week.”
“A few years later, I read an article when Jon Bon Jovi opened ‘Soul Kitchen’ and all the success stories created by this wonderful concept. I was very impressed by the concept and the fact that someone was doing something about feeding the homeless. The stories always stuck with me. I guess I just wasn’t ready to take on such a big project.”
“In January of this year, my best friend decided to move to Tacoma, Washington to be with her boys. She was a new grandmother and wanted to be close to her grandchildren. She saved up, paid off debt, and put her stuff in storage to pick up once she found a place. Initially, she stayed with her son but the landlord only allowed this for two weeks.”
“She applied for hundreds of jobs and had several interviews—but nothing! She has a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and has always had a government job. Yet interview after interview, and nothing. Not even a cleaning position because she was over-qualified.”
“A month had passed and still no job or place to stay. She went to the library every day to put in more applications, all while sleeping in her car at a local park. She met several people with different circumstances doing the same thing. Some were even sleeping in their cars with children. She was on the waiting list for another month at the local shelter before she finally got a bed.”
“My friend did get EBT [food assistance]; however, she could only purchase uncooked food and had nowhere to cook it. Food banks give out canned foods; but, again, nowhere to cook it. Soup kitchens only give out sandwiches. Hot food is pretty much unavailable. Every now and then, the shelter serves a hot meal. She would visit her sons as often as she could to get a hot meal. She also took her showers while visiting.”
“The poor eating and stress of the situation resulted in my friend getting sick and depressed. A few friends and I shared expenses and went to see her. We drove through seven states in six days. We went to the shelter and picked up my friend. We took her out to dinner and we gave her our leftovers.”
“Listening to her struggles and seeing the difference it made for her in sharing time and a meal impacted me. She hadn’t eaten vegetables or fruit in a long time. The food quality was poor. Stories of waiting in line for an hour for a sandwich were shared. This along with having recently learned about nutrition and seeing the impact eating healthy had been having on my life moved me. On the drive home, I was thinking of all the people in St. George. How many of them go hungry or without a hot meal? Then, all of the articles I had read about ‘Soul Kitchen’ came to mind. I told my friends in the car, ‘It’s time! I can do this!’”
“The next thing I knew, ‘Momma’s Kitchen’ was created in my mind. Now I’m going to make it a reality. I cannot do much in Tacoma, but I can do something about it here at home. And maybe I can bring out the awareness and challenge everyone to do the same in their local city. We are all brothers and sisters and should be there for each other. It all starts with feeding one neighbor at a time.”
Momma’s Kitchen’s status
Momma’s Kitchen is currently in the startup phase. Currently, Momma’s Kitchen is raising funds and seeking community support. Securing a location that can be leased or subleased downtown is a priority. Financial donations are needed to launch the project. In addition, Momma’s Kitchen is hopeful to secure donations of needed items such as restaurant equipment, tables, chairs, dinner plates, silverware, and drinking glasses. The labor costs will be 100 percent volunteer-based.
On July 28, Momma’s Kitchen officially became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. This allows for donations to be tax-deductible.
“Donations are extremely important to make this all happen,” said Davila. “We do not qualify for many of the grants due to Momma’s Kitchen being a new startup organization and not in operation yet. To qualify for the grants, many require us to be operational for a minimum of one year.”
“We want to make sure everyone who is hungry has something to eat,” Davila said. “A place to visit and enjoy an evening with other people from the community. A place to lean about the arts, enjoy music, and live entertainment. Learn nutritional information. Letting people know they are not alone; they are truly a part of our community. When the community eats together, we are family! Momma’s Kitchen wants to be a gathering place to allow this to happen.”