EDMONDS — The kitchen is clearing out on a recent Wednesday evening at Edmonds Lutheran Church, and Annie Fortnum is getting ready to follow the food.
Remodeling work at the church means Annie’s Kitchen, the free weekly dinner at the church, has been moved down the street to the Jeremiah Center at 212th Street SW.
Fortnum takes a moment to glance over the kitchen. They need more ice and milk at the center, she tells one volunteer. Then she’s off to the center herself.
The temporary location aside, it’s another Wednesday for Fortnum, 78, and others who make sure the dinner happens every week.
“It’s a good thing I’m getting older because now I just come in the afternoons and tell people what to do,” she said.
Fortnum started the dinner in September 2004, shortly after three local Lutheran churches combined to form one at Edmonds Lutheran Church. She talked about starting a community dinner then and was given the opportunity.
She cooked for 150 people and only four attended the first meal. Fortnum wasn’t discouraged, though, and kept cooking the meal every other week. Before long, more than 50 people were coming to dinner at the church and Fortnum decided there was enough interest to prepare a weekly meal.
Today, Fortnum and her crew of volunteers that includes several professional chefs, prepare a meal for about 150 people every week. There’s always enough food.
Donations of food are collected by church member Bob Snyder and a team of 30 volunteers who glean every day of the week.
Fortnum had the idea to ask grocery stores to give food to Annie’s Kitchen shortly after it began. She’d watched someone sort strawberries into two baskets at QFC in Mountlake Terrace and learned that some of the berries were being taken to a food bank and others would go in the garbage.
“I told them I run this dinner and got strawberries that time,” she said. “Now we get produce, berries, meats and everything.”
Snyder and his team of gleaners pick up food donations several times throughout the week from grocery stores including QFC, Fred Meyer and PCC in Edmonds.
Any leftover food is shared with food banks and other organizations, including Tent Cities, Snyder said.
“We just can’t imagine everywhere (the food) is going,” he said. “It’s just like an Easter egg hunt every day. We have no idea what we’re going to get or where it’s going to go.”
Cooking for so many people means Fortnum keeps her eyes open for new recipes, she said. Her favorite meal to prepare is her salmon loaf.
Fortnum is doing what’s in her heart, Pastor Julie Josund said. She likes to see the families who attend the dinner.
“One thing I really notice about this is it’s women and children, families who feel safe enough to come,” Josund said. “Parents can have a leisurely dinner and kids are playing and learning … doing projects that get incorporated in the table decorations sometimes the next week.”
Monetary donations to Annie’s Kitchen have paid for ovens and refrigerator and freezer units, Fortnum said. At least one person the church helped feed years ago returned to donate food.
“We’re really blessed,” she said.
Amy Daybert: 425-339-3491, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Annie’s Kitchen provides a free meal from 5 to 6:30 p.m. every Wednesday at Edmonds Lutheran Church, 23525 84th Ave. W. in Edmonds. Dinners are served at the Jeremiah Center, 8330 212th St. SW. this month while the church is being renovated. Call 425-778-0966 for information on volunteering. Call the church at 425-744-8090 to make a donation.