In mid-March, as restaurants across the United States were closing their doors because of the coronavirus pandemic, Diana Palmer was laid off from her job as a chef. One day later, the lifelong United Methodist launched Faith in Food, a community outreach that prepares nightly dinners with entrees that include glazed meatloaf, chicken and cheese quesadillas, baked haddock, BBQ pork ribs and seafood casserole.
“We have so many people (in our area) who are elderly or doctors or nurses or food service workers,” explains Palmer, a member of First United Methodist Church in Framingham, Massachusetts. “And we have a population with a very low income. What better way to show that our church reaches out to our local community than to provide a hot meal to people?”
Mission is a core value
Mission is a core value to Palmer, instilled in her long ago by her parents. Before her father, the late James Palmer, passed away, the father and daughter team took high school students on mission trips. Palmer has worked as a volunteer for flood clean up in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Hurricane Katrina for four summers. She also has been in charge of the church’s community gardens for the past 20 years, inheriting that job from her dad.
“It’s important that we be seen outside the doors of the church,” she says.
The day God called
Palmer was sitting at her computer when the idea for Faith in Food came to her.
“I think that it was God’s calling,” she shares. “Something led me to think about using my talents and my time to provide for the needs of others.”
With the church empty because of sccial distancing mandates, Palmer knew working by herself in the kitchen would be a safe environment. When she approached her pastor, the Rev. Heather Kattan, with the idea and to ask about funding, Kattan said, “We’ll figure it out.” Aside from some donations that have come through Facebook posts, the church has paid for all of the groceries and any other needed supplies.
Palmer initially thought that serving 20 people each night for a couple of weeks would be a good goal. Eight weeks in, Faith in Food is serving up to 70 meals nightly.
Tuesday through Saturday, Faith in Food offers dinners to anyone who calls in with a reservation. Cost: $5 or free for those who can’t afford it.
As Massachusetts, along with the rest of the United States, begins to slowly re-open, Palmer is unsure about Faith in Food’s duration. However, she believes her COVID-19 venture will last at least four more weeks, if not longer. And she will make meals as long as needed.
“Everything we’ve done,” she says, “we’ve done in faith.”
A cradle United Methodist, Palmer’s denominational roots reach across three generations. Her paternal great-grandfather, George Jonathan Palmer, and her maternal great-grandfather, Felix Powell, were Methodist ministers. Her parents also were active Methodist church goers and raised their daughter in the Methodist tradition. Palmer has been a member of First UMC in Framingham for 57 years.
“We’re here to help each other," Palmer states with conviction. "If we can’t do that, then we’re not living a Christian life.”
Donations to Faith in Food made payable to First UMC may be mailed to the church at 360 Water Street, Framingham, MA 01701. The church can be reached at 573-898-5626.
*Crystal Caviness works for UMC.org at United Methodist Communications. Contact her by email or at 615-742-5138.
This story was published May 14, 2020.