For the first time in a long time the Taney County Loaves and Fishes program is not happening this year.
Like many events in 2020 and now in 2021, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has caused them to be canceled or postponed. The Taney County Loaves and Fishes program was no exception, according to longtime Loaves and Fishes Coordinator Jim Lawson.
“Because of the virus the typical format that we have, which is at two churches where people come in and sit close to one another and have a meal,” said Lawson. “So that doesn’t work. Then spreading people out really doesn’t work, because we would not have enough room, enough space.”
In more recent years, the Loaves and Fishes program in Taney County was hosted every Monday and Wednesday night during the months of January and February. In 2020, meals were hosted at the First Baptist Church in Branson and at Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church in Branson.
Lawson explained that, even if they were able to properly socially distance attendees, it would take away one of the most important foundations of the program.
“The overlying issue for us is that Loaves and Fishes was set up to give people food, but was also set up to help people have a sense of community and to get to know other people that might share some problems or some concerns,” Lawson said. “We would have people come in, churches and various people, to come in and talk to people. It was never set up to be a handout meal. It was set up to provide food, but also get the chance to know people and have a more personal relationship with people.”
Also because of the pandemic, Lawson added that finding the help to host the event would not be an easy task.
“The other part of that is, you have churches of various groups that bring the volunteers in to prepare the food or to hand out the food or sometimes both, he said. “So that’s a key component. Getting volunteers in the world we live in right now is extremely difficult.”
Looking toward 2022, Lawson said it’s too early to tell if they’ll be able to safely return with the program.
“We just don’t know at this point. It’s just kind of a wait-and-see thing,” Lawson said. “So we’ll just have to wait and see next year whether the vaccine’s going to solve all the problems. It’s just a wait-and-see.”
For those looking for a hot meal in the coming months, the Stone County Loaves and Fishes program is currently underway seven days a week. Due to COVID-19, some of the locations are offering takeout only. Other locations are offering socially distanced seating, but also making takeout options available.
The daily meals are being served at the following locations from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m:
– Sunday: New Hope Church of the Nazarene, 37 Leigh’s Way in Reeds Spring;
– Monday: St. Andrew Presbyterian/St. Marks Episcopal, 30 James River Road in Kimberling City;
– Tuesday: Our Lady of the Cove Catholic Church, 20 Kimberling Boulevard in Kimberling City;
– Wednesday: Life Song Church, 360 Emerson Road in Reeds Spring;
– Thursday: First Baptist Church of Kimberling City, 161 Heavens’s Way in Kimberling City;
– Friday: Kimberling City United Methodist Church, 57 Kimberling Boulevard in Kimberling City and
– Saturday: Church of Christ, 7 Northwoods Drive in Kimberling City.
Meals will be canceled if the Reeds Spring School District is closed for weather. Anyone in need of a hot meal is welcome.