McKinney’s new Community Garden Kitchen aims to help the food insecure in Collin County

It was during a brainstorming session at a Bible study meeting nearly a decade ago that Angela Poen realized Collin County had few places for the food insecure.

Yet among the participants that day were two principals at Title 1 schools, Poen recalls, who both said that food insecurity “was a pretty big issue.”

“Everybody jumped on Google,” Poen said, recalling that moment eight years ago.

But they couldn’t find a dedicated place for the food insecure in the county.

“So I thought, we’ll just raise the money and build one,” she said.

Since then, the Fairview grandmother has helped to raise $1.3 million for Community Garden Kitchen, which opened last week in McKinney.

Poen, who is president of the nonprofit, says it differs from a soup kitchen, and opts to describe the almost 4,800-square-foot facility that shares a campus with Holy Family School as a place where anyone can get a “freshly prepared meal and dine with dignity.”

The land for the building, which was built over the last two years, was provided virtually rent-free by the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas, Poen said.

At Community Garden Kitchen, a professional chef prepares dinners in a restaurant-like setting, where volunteer servers take diners’ orders. Last week, the kitchen served about 70 people, from 6 to 8 p.m.

The kitchen’s target demographic spans those from all walks of life struggling with food insecurity — “families, the working-class poor, single women moving into poverty, students from pre-K through college,” Poen said.

According to the nonprofit’s research, more than 48,000 children in Collin County experience food insecurity, and 15% of county residents living below the poverty line struggle to have enough food to sustain healthy, productive lives.

“If you don’t know when you’re going to get your next meal, it affects your body, mind and spirit,” Poen said. “Our goal is to eliminate that. We are filling in that piece of the puzzle.”

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