Church, Synagogue, or Mosque Kitchens

Hey church- or synagogue- or mosque-going Dopers, does your place of worship also house a kitchen? Is it a commercial-sized enterprise that actually prepares food, or simply a place where food that was cooked at home is brought to be re-heated? Do you feed the homeless? Teach cooking classes? What’s the Straight Dope on your church’s kitchen?

My brother-in-law works in the kitchen of a huge church in downtown Jackson. It is big, like a commercial kitchen. They prepare food for the daycare located in the church every day. They also prepare meals for meetings & seminars held there. Once a week they feed the homeless. He works six days a week.

Last Thanksgiving, for example, they prepared over 500 traditional holiday meals during that week.

Wow! That’s quite an enterprise!

Most, but not all, of the synagogues I attended in America had some sort of kitchen. Those that were in regular buildings had middle to large kitchens, mostly used for in-house catering for weddings, bar/bat mitzvas, synagogue functions, that sort of thing. (Kosher catering companies also used the kitchens to heat up food.) One of them had two kitchens, one each for dairy and meat foods. Others simply followed halachic rules about how to cover foods so the ovens could be used for either type of food (but not at the same time).

Other synagogues were converted houses, and the kitchen consisted of a fridge and a coffee pot.

I doubt that many orthodox congregations in the U.S. would allow homemade food in their kitchens. I’ve found the synagogues here in Israel more lenient about that for their own paid members.

I installed a commercial stove in the kitchen of a urban church for a friend who was a Deacon. The stove was large enough to require 3/4" gas piping. Like NinetyWt’s brother-in-law, they ran a soup kitchen as well.

My midwestern Lutheran church has a kitchen no different than you’d find in a house. Fridge, stove, sink, cabinets. It’s just used for storing and heating up food. And of course - coffee!

We built an addition on a couple years ago and it was intended to be an adult daycare, and available for rent for parties. That addition does have a decent-sized commercial kitchen. But it’s rarely used for church events. Coffee hour, soup supper, Lenten gatherings - all still in the old kitchen.

My parents’ church has a kitchen but they don’t feed the homeless with it or anything. It has a commercial stove and fridge and such. They use it for church suppers and the like, and for some of their programs like Mother’s Morning Out and all.

Is there like a special committee in charge of the kitchen? Who makes the decisions about menus? I guess one thing I am wondering is how closely does the kitchen use reflect the beliefs of the members? (Like, “We should really be feeding the homeless” or “Let’s be sure to deliver some meals to some elderly shut-ins.”)

Our church has a pretty nice professional-style kitchen with plenty of gas stove burners, two regular ovens, a microwave, a large fridge and standalone freezer, ice machine, several sinks, and loads of counter space. It is well stocked with utensils, serving bowls, etc. We actually spent some good money upgrading it a few years ago.

It gets good use too. We host a dozen homeless overnight once a week in the fall and winter and give them dinner and breakfast. We also regularly have lunches or other events for the whole church or smaller groups which use the kitchen. We have had cooking classes also but not in the last year or two - I think they have a problem getting volunteers to teach.

We have a full commercial kitchen in our West Coast Presbyterian Church. The preschool uses it for meal prep, we use it almost every night for our various events (adult education, AA meetings, seminars, weddings, etc.).

We also use for Sunday services, sunday Brunches, and various holidays.

We do NOT use it for feeding the homeless. I THINK (as in - vague memory of a conversation from a Session meeting a few years ago) that part of the city’s permit at the time would be that we do NOT become a place for the homeless to congregate. In truth, there is little homelessness in our city - our outreach ministry in that area focuses on the poorer cities to the North of us.

Our church staff as a Director of Operations who reports to the Rector (priest in charge) and vestry (laity board of directors). She is the one who groups coordinate/schedule with if they want to use the church kitchen. This might include the Room in the Inn program (who feed the homeless), Sunday School classes, the church women’s or men’s groups, the youth group, the newcomers ministry team, etc.

Basically, any group within the church who wants to use the kitchen can schedule it if it’s available. Some groups (like RITI) get priority.

All Gurdwaras (Sikh place of worship - lit: “Gateway to the Guru”) have communal kitchens. According to this list there are 29 Gurdwares in the US. I’m not a Sikh (or religious at all, really) but I’ve been to several Gurdwaras, mostly in India. The practice of handing out (free) food is called langar and applies to worshippers and non-worshippers alike. The large gurdwaras in Amritsar and Delhi serve tens of thousands of free meals a day - all handled by volunteers. The meals are vegetarian and quite basic, but usually pretty tasty anyway.

My mother’s church has a beautiful 8 burner commercial stove with two huge ovens (they can roast 6 turkeys at once, that kind of huge), two refrigerators and a deep freeze, plus commercial sink and dishwasher. There are two microwaves and a commercial toaster (the sort with a conveyor belt) a commercial deep fat fryer and a regular toaster oven. They have four 50 cup coffee urns (2 each for regular and decaf) and two smaller urns for tea, and two cold drink dispensers.

A number of the commercial items were purchased with the building; the congregation that had used the building before my mother’s had a senior citizen center with a daily breakfast and lunch program.

Rather than seniors, my mother’s congregation has a daycare center for children, so the kitchen is used daily preparing meals for that. But it’s also used for churchwide events with full meals at least twice every month if not more, coffee/tea/lemonade and donuts/bagels/whatevers every Sunday morning, a monthly ladies’ lunch and men’s brunch, ice cream socials, strawberry festivals, and the like.

Church folk love to eat and socialize.

And of course the kitchen is used for post-funeral receptions and I believe there have been a couple of wedding receptions there as well.

They also rent out the hall and use of the kitchen to members of the congregation to hold events (so long as they fall within an approved list of uses) and to certain community organizations for their meetings. One community group has a monthly meeting with a free supper for anyone in the area who wants to come.

The women’s guild is in charge of the kitchen, they’re the ones who collect the rental fees, if applicable (only for private or community events, you don’t pay for use for funerals, the money goes to the church general fund) and one of their members comes to let the cooks in (the kitchen has a separate lock) and then to inspect for cleanliness and damage after use.

Conversely, my former synagogue, which was in a purpose built building, had a very modest kitchen with a regular consumer stove and refrigerator and sink as one might find in any home, and I think we had a 20 cup coffee pot, just the one. (If you wanted decaf, you drank instant. :))

Because of varying standards on acceptable “levels” of kosher for meat, the kitchen and reception hall were dairy only, and we relied on a lot of pre-packaged things so that there was a visible and reliable hechsher. But that worked, we had an ecological commitment to shop locally and ethically to the greatest extent possible and the practice thoughtful meat-free eating whenever we could so we had a lot of really good vegetarian meals there.

Sounds wonderful! So the kitchen really served as an expression of your faith community’s values. That must have been a really good thing.

Yip. They built a new one not a while back. Before that we had one that was like a house kitchen, and before that, it was one about the size of a broom closet.

Before the economic crash, we didn’t really have many people that weren’t already covered by the people in town. We just fed the kids that were bussed out here. But part of the reason for the new kitchen is to start a larger feeding program. I unfortunately have been unable to attend for a while, so I don’t know how well that is going. But, based on what I hear, it’ll be a year or so before we can really afford it.

Most Mormon churches include a kitchen, which usually has one or two stoves and a refrigerator. Generally these are intended bo be used not for actual meal preparation, but for reheating dishes prepared at home.

There are several cities with large Jewish populations that have organizations that will take leftover kosher food from events, and distribute it to those in the community that need it. I took several trays of food to such a place after my daughter’s bat mitzva.

The RC parish hall that I grew up in had a commercial kitchen. Two eight burner ranges with double ovens, several microwaves, a walk-in fridge/freezer, a commercial dishwasher and several prep and handwashing sinks.

Although our little town didn’t really have much of a homeless population, we did prep and distribute meals to the elderly through Meals on Wheels. Mostly, the parish hall was used for parish functions, church social events, funeral dinners and wedding receptions. The Rosary Society was in charge of the scheduling.

The U.U. church that I sometimes attend now has a smaller commercial kitchen. It serves for church functions and our once a week RITI (I’m in the same area as Skammer, different churches take in different segments on different nights).

Catholic. Not in the church itself. The parish hall has a reasonably good kitchen, but it’s not commercial-sized. More of a warming up sausage rolls/cutting sandwiches/cakes/preparing tea & coffee type kitchen.

Our synagogue has a huge kitchen. It’s kosher and no homemade food is allowed. I think Sisterhood (in my small hometown it was practically synonymous with Hadassah) is in charge of it. Sometimes they have cooking classes and baking fundraisers, but it’s mostly to prepare food for events.