Oakland Christian holds Loaves and Fishes food distribution to assist Chuckatuck locals 

Published 8:01 pm Monday, December 19, 2022

Oakland Christian Church held its monthly Loaves & Fishes program to help bring food to the residents of the Chuckatuck area.

Located at 5641 Godwin Blvd., church members, members of Healthy Suffolk and officials from both the city and the sheriff’s office came together Thursday, Dec. 15 to help provide food to those in need.

“We started July a year ago and there’s no questions asked. People just drive up and get a bag,” Oakland Christian Church member Pamela Saunders said. “We have several people, close to 14 I believe, that we deliver to in the community because they’re shut-ins and they don’t have transportation,”

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Saunders described the program and how everything comes together to help those residing in Chuckatuck.

“We have a planning meeting the first Tuesday of every month at 10 a.m. and then we do our distribution the third Thursday, and that goes out at 11 a.m.,” she said. “We come about 10 a.m. to set up. At our planning meeting, we plan the menu or what we’re going to put in the bags, and we divide who’s going to buy what, so there’s not one person buying everything.”

Saunders is pleased with how the community joins forces to make the Loaves and Fishes program succeed.

“The really beautiful thing to me is it’s not just Oakland Christian Church — it happens here,” she said. “So there’s people here from Wesley Chapel, from St. Johns, from the Ruitians, from the Sheriff’s Department, the Chuckatuck Civic League, so there’s lots of organizations that are helping.”

Board member and former chairman of Healthy Suffolk Doug Naismith explains how the organization is working together with the church to get food to the community.

“We give away 40 bags of food every month. Some of it’s contributed, but then we buy a lot of the food, and we use money that is contributed by organizations in the community,” Naismith said. “The church contributes. The Ruritan Club contributes. Healthy Suffolk contributes and individuals as well,” he explained.

Naismith said partnering with the church helped them create community gardens for the residents of Chuckatuck.

“We currently have 10 raised beds, we hope we’re going to have 10 more in the spring,” he said. “Members of the community adopt a bed and raise the produce and then they contribute 10% of what they raised to those in need.”

Saunders spoke on their overall goals of the distribution.

“We hope that they have an opportunity to have their health needs met,” Saunders said. “We try to provide very nutritious meals.”

She continued further.

“Some of our meals are like recipes, like today we have a chicken and noodle soup… and the Wanchese Fish Company today has donated scallops and shrimps to go with it. Last month, Smithfield Foods donated hams. One time, Food Lion donated apples… Junto Women’s Club, they bring canned goods. Healthy Suffolk contributes financially as well as physical labor.”

Finally, Naismith also spoke on the overall goal for Healthy Suffolk.

“We’re just about feeding hungry people, about satisfying food insecurities in the community, and we know there are people in Chuckatuck who need food and that’s why we’re doing this,” he said. “That’s the chief aim.”