LYNN — My Brother’s Table has hit a major milestone.
The Lynn soup kitchen has now served more than four million free meals since it opened in 1982.
The milestone, which was reached on June 26, came months sooner than expected for Dianne Kuzia Hills, executive director of My Brother’s Table.
“I thought we would probably hit it maybe in the winter this year, or maybe next year we would hit four million meals,” said Hills. “I never thought it would be this summer.”
Hills said the soup kitchen had been planning to mark the milestone with a special dinner, but since the COVID-19 pandemic has eliminated the use of their dining room for meal consumption, those plans had to be scrapped.
Instead, the achievement was posted on the My Brother’s Table social media pages. But dishing out four million meals is not entirely a cause for celebration. It’s also a time to reflect on how much need there is, Hills said.
“There’s so many people involved with those four million meals,” she said. “It’s pretty amazing when you think of all the hands that have touched this food and then you think of all the people who needed this food, that’s more sobering. It’s a sobering reminder of how many people are hungry.”
That reminder has been especially apparent during the pandemic, with more people seeking meals at the Willow Street soup kitchen.
This past June, My Brother’s Table served 86,000 meals, four times more than the 17,000 served in June 2019. A similar spike was also seen this past May, when 70,000 meals were served compared to 17,000 during the same month last year, Hills said.
More meals were served during the month of June than during the entire year two decades ago. And My Brother’s Table has already served more meals during the first half of this year than all of last year, when 204,770 were distributed, Hills said.
“It’s pretty dramatic,” she said. “The trends we’ve been seeing crop up is the increase in housing is affecting people’s budgets. I think our numbers were going up because of the sheer economics of it. But then with the pandemic, you have so many people out of work and they’re just scrambling to pay their most basic bills and then have nothing left.”
Last month, My Brother’s Table served about 9,000 people, which is around 10 percent of the city’s population, Hills said.
In anticipation of increased demand, the soup kitchen extended its hours in March and is still operating under the same daily schedule.
Rather than remaining open for a set period of time during lunch and dinner, My Brother’s Table is open from 12-6 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 2-4:30 p.m. on weekends. All meals are to-go and people can stop by multiple times during the day and pick up food for others as well.
“My feeling is we’re here and we have the capacity and the space,” said Hills. “I want to feed as many people as we possibly can. I’m sad that there’s people who are suffering and have no income. It’s sad and it’s moving to see people really struggling, but it feels good to be helping out the little bit that we can.”