MOORESVILLE – What began as a place to get a hot meal has transformed into a multi-faceted center for food distribution and education. And now the Mooresville Soup Kitchen is looking for a new space to best serve all of those roles.
The current facility on South Broad Street is 5,000 square feet, but Executive Director Lara Ingram said the nonprofit needs a space three times that large.
But she is concerned one is not available in the downtown area, where MSK can best serve its guests.
“The barriers are finding a large enough space and one that’s close to a lot,” said Ingram, who is in the second year leading the organization. “There is land, but not necessarily on Main Street.”
Much of the additional space would be for storage purposes. Beyond the food that is served to approximately 150 guests each day, MSK also has a pantry program that has more than 800 families registered.
“We need a pantry, number one, to get set up every single day,” Ingram said. “It would give more people more time to shop, and we could individualize the service.”
MSK also ships food to several churches in Mooresville and Davidson, where folks can have a meal there.
“It’s serving people who can’t get here or don’t want to come to a soup kitchen,” Ingram said.
The dining room also becomes a classroom and event space, creating a need for additional room for non-food-related services.
“We need classroom space that isn’t in the middle of the dining room,” Ingram said, noting MSK’s English-as-a-second-language classes. “It’s very hard to learn English in a room full of 100 people.”
More than 450 volunteers lend a hand there, with up to 10 at a time in the kitchen. With so many of them older than 60, Ingram hopes a larger storage space will also be paired with better equipment to transfer heavy boxes of food to and from trucks. Additional space would also benefit donations of bulky items such as blankets, tents and winter coats.
There are no requirements to eat a meal served at the soup kitchen, which serves breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday. But Ingram said using the pantry and other programs requires an eligibility application; folks need to live in the area and be at or below 200 percent of the poverty level – guidelines the Second Harvest Food Bank uses.
“For a family of four, it’s $40,000 a year,” Ingram said.
When MSK started 30 years ago, Ingram said it primarily served homeless people, but changes in the economy and other factors mean guests may have a place to stay.
“Almost all of our people have homes and have jobs, and some have two jobs,” Ingram said. “They still struggle to pay rent and still pay for groceries.”
The search for the larger space started a year ago, and Ingram said she hopes to have one identified in the first quarter of this year.
“We’re not looking for a fancy, high-end space,” Ingram said. “We want to use the resources the best way we possibly can.”