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The Most Important Meal of the Day

The Most Important Meal of the Day

Breakfast as the most important meal of the day is a quintessentially American idea. In fact, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, a physician and nutritionist, is credited with establishing this principle sometime in the late nineteenth century. Kellogg promoted eating grains, fruits, nuts to his patients and eventually invented Corn Flakes.

Since the explosion of the breakfast foods industry there are proponents and opponents with research to support their positions. Some subscribe to Kellogg’s general view, while others see conspiracy to grow a multi-billion dollar industry.

Setting aside research, opinions, and conspiracies, we know the most important meal of the day at The House is not breakfast but lunch.

For years, we have told you about the diligent and loving volunteers who provide lunch every day we are open. We include this information in brochures and grant requests because we want people to understand that beyond providing a job, we care about the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of the women serve.

But lunch at The House is so much more.

An Oasis in a Food Desert

A report from the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law titled, “The Roots of Food Deserts,” notes that,

In Memphis, one can drive along Poplar Avenue from downtown all the way to Collierville and find full-scale grocery stores within a one-to-two-mile radius of one another along the entire route. But…areas like South Memphis, Orange Mound, Binghampton, North Memphis, Whitehaven or Frayser… face a much more difficult task in finding anything resembling a full-service grocery store.

USDA’s Interactive Atlas shows that almost the entirety of Orange Mound is considered low income and low access to food. The median income in Orange Mound is just over $21,000, but 35% of residents make $15,000 or less according to the Census. Kroger closed its Orange Mound store in 2018 and Aldi soon followed. This left the oldest African American neighborhood in the U.S. without a grocery store.

We have often lamented the transportation woes that plague the women at My Cup of Tea. Couple this with a lack of a full-service grocery within close proximity, and the inability to obtain healthy and hearty meals reaches a near crisis point.

The daily lunches at the House are reliable. The MCOT women know that if all else fails on a given day, there will be a meal at 3028 Carnes. The daily fare may be familiar, or it may be a dish they’ve never experienced, but it will fill their bellies and almost always send them home with leftovers.

The Sisterhood of Daily Lunches

When lunch is served, almost everyone eats together around the heavy hardwood table in the center room of The House. If it’s warm and sunny, they gather on the porch and sit in rocking chairs and on the swing. The important thing is they are together.

This is the time when conversation, laughter, and sometimes tears ensue. There is plenty of camaraderie throughout the workday but depending on the task assigned and the number of customers to serve, the women are working in small groups or alone in different parts of the House. But at lunch, everyone pauses for nourishment – the physical and the kind we crave and receive from authentic human interaction. The conversations range from the mundane to the extraordinary, and within that small window of time, they can learn the latest neighborhood news, comment on the weather, and share deep, personal and spiritual challenges.

On one recent day, a woman nervously shared a secret that she had been keeping from her sisters. It wasn’t the kind of secret that was harmful to others, but it was about a past indiscretion that had reared its head again. Now, there would be some consequences. She wanted them to know because of the respect and love she had for them, and she wanted their prayers. The woman cried, her sisters cried, but no one judged or wagged a finger. Not only did they pray, but some also stepped up in immediate and tangible ways to help. We’ll write more about this in a future post.

Being Fed and Fed by the Spirit

Physical needs are met with the plate of food before each woman. But spiritual needs are met with a time of devotion and prayer. Most days, Debbie, our operations manager, or a volunteer offer a brief word of Scripture, a devotional reading, or a reflection.

The dialogue isn’t just one-way. Instead, a discussion often develops with women sharing how the truths of the lesson being discussed are evident in their lives. They offer words of genuine gratitude and acknowledge their ongoing need and desire for prayer and God’s direction in their lives.

And when the plates are empty and everyone is full, the meal ends the way it started – with prayer. The women clear their plates, move toward their work stations, and wonder about the kinds sustenance tomorrow’s lunch will bring.