BATH — The city’s soup kitchen, part of the the Bath Area Food Bank, has reopened with a new manager.
Patti Silva of Bath, who was involved in starting an evening neighborhood cafe at the Neighborhood United Church of Christ at 150 Congress Ave., is running the kitchen, filling a vacancy that existed since June.
“We interviewed several wonderful candidates,” Food Bank Executive Director Kimberly Gates said last week via email. “… After speaking with Patti, we knew she would make the perfect addition to the Bath Area Food Bank. She cooked for an average of 125 people every Tuesday night at the Neighborhood Cafe and guests raved about her meals.”
Gates noted in August that demand tends to be low during the summer, which allowed the kitchen to be shut. The kitchen is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the First Baptist Church, 851 Washington St.
With cooking starting around 7:30 a.m., volunteer help is always appreciated, Silva said Tuesday.
She served on the neighborhood cafe board, and spent three and a half years as kitchen manager and chef.
“My husband passed away in August, and one of our philosophies was, ‘pay it forward,'” Silva said. “I figured I had the experience, and (becoming soup kitchen manager) was one of those ways of paying it forward.”
She brings 25 years of experience in catering and cooking to her new job. One of her most popular items at both the cafe and soup kitchen: spare ribs.
“There’s a trick in making them the right way,” Silva said with a chuckle.
She noted that a great amount of produce is available in Maine, with many farmers willing to donate, which allows her to introduce “fresh food and produce to people who may not (be able to) afford it, or people who just aren’t sure how to prepare it.”
Silva said she does not want the soup kitchen to be a stigma for people, but a place they will be proud to frequent.
“I want people to be able to say ‘I had lunch at the soup kitchen, and was able to sit down and talk with my neighbors and be part of something,'” she explained. “I think that people these days aren’t just hungry for food; they’re hungry for companionship, and hungry to know their neighbors.”
The food pantry component of the food bank, meanwhile, is still in need of a new home. It has been at the Neighborhood United Church of Christfor more than 14 years, and has until the end of the year to move, if the church is sold, Gates has said.
The congregation would like to return to downtown, Pastor Bill Bliss said in August, “to restore the presence of a vital faith community in the heart of the city.”
He said last week that he has been working with Gates to find a new location for the food pantry. A sale is in the works between the church and a buyer, but Bliss declined to reveal further details until the transaction is finalized.
The pantry must be within the city limits, and requires about 4,000 square feet, which includes storage space for its 11 freezers. Handicapped accessibility is needed, and a first-floor location is preferred because so much food goes in and out.
The pantry is open Tuesdays and Fridays from 5-7 p.m.
Patti Silva of Bath, right, is the city soup kitchen’s new manager. Robin Buczkowski, the assistant manager, is at left. Silva, who was involved with the creation of a neighborhood cafe in Bath, said she has 25 years of experience in catering and cooking.