The Bellingham Community Meal Program, established in 1983 and staffed completely by volunteers, provides one free meal the last Saturday of the month from January through October. Meals are for anyone, without requirements.
Our meals are hearty and healthy, and served in a welcoming and safe environment. Currently, we serve between 350 and 500 meals each month.
Our goal is to help provide people with a nutritious meal at the end of the month when money is especially tight. Our guests include individuals who are homeless and low income, as well as working people and families.
Treating our guests with dignity and respect is a critical part of our mission. Every volunteer’s job includes their task at hand, as well as making our guests feel welcomed.
Are you left wanting more information? Keep reading to find out more about our meal service, volunteer roles, and how you can get involved with BCMP.
When was the meal started? 1983
Who is the meal for? BCMP serves a meal for anyone who would like to come. Our guests include individuals who are homeless and low income, as well as working people and families.
How many meals does BCMP serve? Currently we serve between 350 and 500 meals each month. This number is a count of meals served – not people – and includes firsts, seconds, and take-home meals. How many volunteers does it take to make the meal happen? Roughly 80 volunteers who work in 2-3 hour shifts from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. on meal day, with other volunteers working behind the scenes on logistics throughout the month before the meal. Do you have groups of volunteers? Yes. Our regular volunteer groups include: Bethel Christian Reformed Church in Lynden, Christ the Servant Lutheran Church, WWW Anthropology classes and other Western groups, Filipino American group, and WECU. Other groups who have volunteered in the past include: First Congregational Church, Lynden High School basketball and wrestling teams, Lynden High School Honor Society, Meridian International Club, Bellingham Insight Meditation Society, and Peoples Bank.
How is the meal funded? Through donations from organizations and individuals in the community. Our major donors include the following: Assumption Church; John Baker & Carol Walton; Business Support Services NW LLC; Christ the Servant Lutheran Church; Community Food Coop; Family Care Network; Horn Foundation; Rotary Club of Bellingham; WECU; Heritage Bank; and Lisa Recht.
Both WECU and Heritage Bank pay for a meal and provide large groups of volunteers once or twice a year.
When does the meal occur? The meal occurs the last Saturday of the month, January – October. Food is served from 12:30-3:30 p.m., although doors open at 9:00 a.m. and guests are welcome to enjoy coffee, light snacks, and company prior to the meal being served.
Why doesn’t BCMP serve meals in November and December? The Lighthouse Mission serves a meal in Assumption’s gym the months of November and December.
Where does the meal occur? Assumption Gym located behind Assumption Church at 2116 Cornwall Ave, Bellingham, WA 98225.
Is BCMP part of Assumption? Yes and no. BCMP was started by an individual who worked for Assumption. Over the years, the program grew to include volunteers from other faith-based (and non-faith-based) organizations around the area. Assumption generously continues to allow BCMP to use its facilities to prepare and serve its monthly meal.
Where does BCMP get its food? Our shopper purchases the bulk of the food for the meal from Cash & Carry. The Lighthouse Mission provides BCMP with bread. And our volunteer bakers supply BCMP with homemade cookies, cakes, pies, breads, and pastries.
Where do I park? You can park in the Assumption Church/School parking lot. There is also street parking on Kentucky and Cornwall.
What do I wear? Comfortable, closed toe shoes. Your clothing should be comfortable and something that you’re ok with getting dirty.
Do I need to bring anything? BCMP supplies the tools for the volunteer job including aprons. But if you have an apron that you prefer wearing, feel free to bring your own. If you are working in the kitchen, you will be required to wear a hair net. Alternatively, you may bring from home and wear a baseball cap.
What do I do when I arrive? Find the volunteer table located in the back corner of the gym (to the left of the kitchen). Find the shift manager (look for an individual wearing a yellow name tag) and let him or her know that you’ve arrived. The shift manager will help you get signed in, find an apron, make a name tag, and understand your duties.
Is there a secure place to store my valuables? No. BCMP does not have lockers or any other secure space to store valuables. Volunteers typically hang their coats on the coat rack at the back of the gym. Some volunteers leave purses or bags under the volunteer table – this is fine, just know that your stuff is not secure.
What are the different volunteer duties? Volunteer duties include food prep, dining room set up and take down, serving food on the serving line, serving beverages, cleaning and resetting tables, bussing dishes, dish washing and final cleanup. In addition, it is each volunteer’s duty to help make our guests feel welcome.
How can I make guests feel welcome? Be polite and respectful. Greet guests with a smile. Ask them how they are doing. Before you bus their meal, ask if they are finished. Use common sense. If you need more ideas, think about how you like to be treated while dining out.
What if I don’t like the job I’m assigned? It’s helpful if you stick with the job that you are assigned for a given shift. After the shift, you are free to sign up for a different job the next month.
What if I can’t do the job I’m assigned? Tell your shift manager if you’re unable or uncomfortable doing the job you’re assigned. Your shift manager will find a job that fits your needs.
If I’m assigned to the kitchen, do I need to have a food handler’s permit? No. As a monthly donated food distributing organization, BCMP is exempt from the requirement that each food handler have a valid permit. The permit requires BCMP to have one individual with a valid and current food handler’s permit on-site at all times.
Can I eat? Yes, please! There are white, volunteer meal tickets on the volunteer table. After you’ve completed your volunteer shift, grab a white, volunteer ticket, go through the line, and enjoy the meal that you helped make possible! You can eat the meal among good company in the gym or feel free to take it to-go.
What do I need to do if I want to be a volunteer on a regular basis? Sign-up using Sign-up Genius for each month you’d like to volunteer.
How do I become a manager? You are eligible to become a manager after you’ve consistently volunteered with BCMP for 6 months. We have a variety of manager positions and openings vary.
How do I become a cook? Individuals interested in becoming a lead cook on our cook team typically begin by volunteering as an assistant cook and are evaluated by other cook team members, the Operations Manager, and the Board of Directors. Included in the evaluation is not only an individual’s culinary skills but also, the demonstrated ability to lead and work well with others (including other volunteers, guests, and vendors), dependability, excellent communication skills, timeliness, and professionalism.
What is your busiest shift? Our busiest shift is probably 12:15-2:30 p.m., when the bulk of the meal service occurs, although other shifts can be busy as well.
Can I sign up my group or organization to volunteer? Yes, please. We enjoy having large groups volunteer. Note, however, that BCMP shifts are comprised of 5-12 volunteers. As a result, groups of more than 8 individuals need to be willing to volunteer during different shifts on the same day.
What does BCMP do with its leftover food? When our meal service ends at 3:30 p.m., we package up any remaining food and take it to the Lighthouse Mission.
Other than signing up for a shift, how else can I help BMCP? There are a variety of ways in which you can help:
Signup to bake cookies, breads, pastries, cakes, and pies. Volunteer bakers bake at home and bring baked goods to the gym before noon on meal day.
Apply to be a manager. If you have consistently volunteered for 6 months or more with BCMP, you are eligible to become a manager. Openings vary.
Signup to do BCMP’s laundry. BCMP uses aprons and towels each meal and needs an individual to pick up the dirty aprons and towels (typically 2 bins which is approx. 2-3 loads depending on washer size) between 4 and 5 p.m. on meal day and return them washed and folded between 8 and 9 a.m. on the following meal day.
Agree to be an on-call volunteer. Volunteer to be a short-notice/on-call volunteer willing to get a call late the week of the meal – or maybe even the day of the meal – to fill-in if we find ourselves short staffed.
Donate goods. We're always looking for aprons and towels.
Link your Fred Meyer card to BCMP. If you have a Fred Meyer rewards card, you can link that card to BCMP. Doing so will result in Fred Meyer donating money to BCMP. The steps are easy! If you have a registered rewards card, simply log into your Fred Meyer account. From the home page, go to the Rewards tab and select “Community Rewards.” You will be asked to search for a charity: enter “91310.” You should see and select: “Bellingham / Assumption Community Meal Project.”
Follow us on social media to spread the word. Follow us on Facebook at BellinghamCommunityMealProgram (BCMP) and Instagram bham_community_meal_program.
Let us know that you want to help. Our needs vary throughout the year. The above list is an idea of our ongoing needs but feel free to check in with us given that our needs change.
Does BCMP have social media? Yes. You can find us on Facebook at BellinghamCommunityMealProgram (BCMP) and Instagram at bham_community_meal_program. BCMP also has a website: https://bellinghamcommunitymealprogram.weebly.com.
How do I donate financially to BCMP? Contact Anna Mae Hess at email@example.com
What is BCMP’s cost of serving a meal? Typically, $650-1,000
I need community service hours. Can I get them through BCMP? Yes. When you arrive to volunteer, please let your shift manager know that you are performing community service and provide him or her with the paperwork related to the same. Upon completion of your shift(s), the Operations Manager or her designee will complete the community service verification.
I have physical limitations; are there volunteer opportunities for me? Yes. We have a variety of jobs. There are a few jobs that can be performed while sitting. There are other jobs that require minimal lifting or carrying. Please inform your shift manager of any limitations and he or she will help ensure that your job fits your abilities.
I would like to volunteer with my 10-year old son. Are there jobs that we can do together? Yes. We have several jobs that parents and kids can do together including bussing, pouring juice, setting tables, and cleanup. Shifts suitable for volunteers age 10 and under are: (1) 8 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.; (2) 10:30 a.m. – noon; and (3) 2:15 - 4:30 p.m. Once your child has several months of volunteer experience with BCMP, the much busier 12:15 shift may also be a possibility.
Is there security at the meal? Yes. BCMP hires a security guard to work from 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.