Welcome to Toni’s Kitchen at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and thank you for your willingness to volunteer. Volunteers are the backbone of Toni’s, preparing and serving over 12,000 meals a year and working with our community partners* to assist our guests to eat healthy and stay healthy. Whether you are chopping vegetables, setting tables, serving meals, washing dishes, collecting food donations from local merchants or raising funds, your efforts are making a real difference in the lives of those we serve.
We have designed this brief orientation to Toni’s Kitchen to give new volunteers a sense of the history and mission of this organization as well as provide information that will help your experience to be as rewarding as possible.
A Bit of History
Toni’s Kitchen was born in 1982 when a group of women at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Montclair embarked on a Lenten Project to assist members of the community who lacked food resources. Among the group of women was Antoinette (Toni) Green, a member of the parish and a cook for a day care program housed in the church. Toni and the other women visited local soup kitchens and other organizations to learn how they might help and were soon serving meals to small groups of guests using the kitchen facilities of St. Luke’s Church.
The program grew, attracting guests and volunteers from throughout the community, and reaching out to programs and organizations in the community that could help provide services that would complement the mission of Toni’s Kitchen.
Today Toni’s Kitchen serves healthy meals four days a week, 52 weeks a year to an average of 70 guests at each meal. Menus are planned with the assistance of a registered dietician following Federal nutritional guidelines. Health and other services are available to guests on a regular basis through community partnerships and Toni’s also works to provide healthy food off-site to local service organizations.
The mission of Toni’s Kitchen is still that of the group of St. Luke’s women who started it – to respond to the food needs of our community by providing nutritious meals in an atmosphere of respect and dignity.
*These include the Mental Health Association of Essex County; Partners for Health; Zufall Health Center; The United Way of Northern New Jersey; Caldwell University Department of Nursing; Hackensack University Medical Center-Mountainside Hospital; and many more.
Some Guidelines for Volunteers
We respect the guests we serve including their personal or emotional limitations, their medical needs and their financial circumstances.
We refrain from violating a person’s personal space or touching them without their permission.
We do not photograph our guests without their permission.
We request guidance from the Kitchen Manager for problems we may observe or questions regarding the meal service.
We do not use cell phones while working in the kitchen or serving our guests.
We refer requests for money or loans to the Director of Toni’s Kitchen or the St. Luke’s Church Rector.
We follow the health and safety guidelines that have been established for the kitchen.
About the Kitchen
The Team:The kitchen is under the direction of a Kitchen Manager who is responsible for the overall operation of the kitchen. The Kitchen manager directs meal preparation, serving and clean up, and is responsible for supplies, equipment and food storage. Coordinated by a volunteer Lead Cook, the team of kitchen volunteers prepares and serves the meal that has been planned for that day.
Nutrition: We recognize that our guests have limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables, adequate amounts of protein and sufficient quantities of whole grains and dairy. We also recognize that guests often rely on fast foods that may contain excessive amounts of fats, salt and sugar. Our goal is to provide consistently healthy, nutritious and tasty meals. Meals are planned weekly by our Kitchen Manager in collaboration with a team of volunteers and reviewed by a Registered Dietician. The group works to devise meals that have sufficient protein and other nutrients and utilize a variety of different foods. Fresh fruits and vegetables are used whenever possible and My Plate and USDA nutritional guidelines are followed.
Food Safety: The safe handling of food is essential to providing healthy meals. Some of the ways we assure food safety include:
Handwashing. Hands must be washed:
- Before you start work in the kitchen
- After using the restroom
- After handling raw meat, poultry or seafood
- After handling or taking out garbage
- After touching your hair, face or body
- After sneezing, coughing or using a tissue
- After clearing tables or busing dirty dishes
- Before putting on gloves
- After eating or drinking
- After touching dirty equipment, unclean work surfaces or towels
Gloves. Gloves are provided in four sizes in dispensers throughout the kitchen. Gloves are required when preparing ready-to-eat foods that will not be cooked.
Guidelines for using gloves are:
- Wash hands before putting on gloves
- Change gloves when they become damaged or dirty
- Change gloves after handling raw meat, seafood or poultry
- Change gloves when beginning a different task
- Change gloves if you taste food using your hands
- Remove gloves when using the rest room
- Never rinse, wash or reuse gloves
Cutting Boards. Although all cutting boards are washed after each use, designating specific cutting boards for specific tasks is an additional way to assure food safety. The color codes for the cutting boards are posted throughout the kitchen.
General Food Safety.
- A digital thermometer is used to measure the temperature of cooked foods.
- Frozen meat, fish and poultry should be defrosted in the refrigerator or in cold water.
- When preparing, sorting or storing foods, check expiration labels and use-by dates and discard food that is past date or is in open or damaged cans or packages.
- Questions about food quality should be directed to the Kitchen Manager.
- Foods that are stored in the freezer should be marked with the date they are being put into the freezer.
- Long hair should be tied back while working around or serving food.
- Use care when handling knives, food processors and other kitchen equipment. Feel free to work with a seasoned volunteer or ask for assistance.
- Unless a volunteer is cooking, walking in the area in front of the stove should be avoided.
- Wear aprons (which are provided)
- Wear mid-calf or full-length pants
- Wear shirts, blouses or sweaters with short or long sleeves. Do not wear sleeveless shirts or tops with loose sleeves.
- Wear shoes with closed toes in the kitchen or while serving food. Do not wear sandals or flip flops.
Schedules: Meals are served at noon on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and at 5 PM on Sunday*. Food preparation volunteers arrive at 9 AM and serving and general support volunteers (including clean-up team) arrive at 11:30 AM Thursday through Saturday. Sunday volunteers arrive at 3 PM to prepare a meal served at 5 PM.
Guests begin to enter at 11:30 on Thursday through Saturday. Coffee and cold drinks are available and appetizers are served at that time. At noon announcements are made and the menu is read followed by a prayer. Soup is then served, followed by the main course. Dessert is served at the end of each meal. Final clean up usually ends by 1:30PM
* The Salvation Army in Montclair provides mid-day meals Monday through Wednesday.
Serving our Guests: Except for appetizers all food is placed on carts for serving. All guests at a table are served before moving to the next table. Meals are placed before each individual, serving ladies first. Requests for special meals are handled by the Kitchen Manager. Full carts enter the dining room through the main kitchen door and are returned through the side hall door.
Clean Up: Guests bus their dishes to clean-up stations on either side of the dining room. Soiled dishes are brought to the kitchen and scraped and rinsed before being placed in the dishwasher. Pots, pans, cutting boards and utensils are placed in the dishwasher if possible, or washed by hand and sanitized. All dishes and other equipment is stored in designated areas. Tables, countertops and other work surfaces are cleaned with disinfectant.
Other Jobs in the Kitchen: In addition to food preparation, serving and clean up, volunteers set the tables, sort and store donated food, and set up “take-away” to assist guests to take food items with them when they leave.
Volunteer Sign –Up: In order for the Kitchen Manager to assure adequate staffing for each meal, volunteers are required to sign up ahead of time. This can be done by email (TonisKitchen@gmail.com) or by signing up in person at Toni’s Kitchen from 9 AM to 1 PM Thursday through Saturday.
Beyond the Kitchen
Other volunteer opportunities at Toni’s Kitchen include fund raising, picking up food from local merchants and participating in community food-support programs such as the “back-pack” program for families and outreach meals to local organizations. We also have opportunities in our Computer Room assisting guests with email, Internet searches and resumes. And, there is Toni’s Garden where volunteers help us grow vegetables and herbs.
How to Volunteer
Go to our website Toniskitchen.org to learn more about Toni’s Kitchen and becoming a volunteer.
No matter how you choose to volunteer you will be making a real difference in someone’s life!