The Alliance Community Table was formed in the summer of 2018 by the Task Force on Poverty. Different groups of volunteers prepared meals and served them in Central Park behind the Knight Museum in July and August.

It became obvious that there was a significant population in Alliance who relied on this meal, as they couldn’t afford to eat three times a day. A separate committee was spun off from the Task Force, and the Community Table asked volunteers and groups to continue to serve meals on weekdays at the Masonic Center. People entered the west door, picked up a tray, went through the serving line, and ate at tables with their friends and family.

When the COVID-19 crisis hit, the noon meal shifted. People were no longer able to eat in the Masonic Center; rather they were given meals from the back door behind the Center. For a while meals were delivered, but that option became unmanageable due to the number of volunteer drivers needed. Now all meals are grab and go.

The Masonic Center/ Community Table kitchen was recently inspected by the Nebraska Department of Health. As directed by the state inspector, the Community Table board would like to remind all volunteers that the Masonic Center Kitchen is the ONLY kitchen approved for meal preparation for Community Table meals.

In the past, other kitchens that had been previously inspected by the state were used in food preparation. These kitchens included many church sites from around the community. As these kitchens have not been re-inspected and certified by the state, they are not approved for Community Table’s use. The Community Table board also wants to remind volunteers that home-baked goods are not allowed. While we recognize these donations are a testimony to the generosity of our neighbors, we must comply with state regulations in keeping our patrons safe and our kitchen in service. Store-purchased or restaurant-baked goods such as cookies, cakes and muffins are always acceptable.

Community Table is always looking for volunteers, and there are posts on Facebook listing available dates. They have received some donations of canned food and frozen meat from Food Bank of the Heartland that groups are welcome to use, and you can contact Whitney at 308-455-9175 or message Community Table on Facebook to find out more or to sign up for a day to serve.

During the first summer, many groups stepped up to provide meals. Each block of downtown merchants formed a coalition and let one or two employees help prepare or serve a meal. Some groups pooled funds and purchased food from a restaurant or deli that they could bag and serve. Please consider doing this again!

Monetary donations are always welcome, as Community Table has been serving 50-90 meals a day. Donations can be dropped off or sent to Community Table, Great Western Bank, 423 W 3rd St, Alliance, NE 69301. Many churches have set up special funds for Community Table. Organizations that serve on a regular basis have spent hundreds of dollars purchasing food and would appreciate your donations or the offer of your time.

Moving forward, we must remember that meal prep can only be done at the Masonic Center. The Community Table board continues to provide plastic silverware and lunch containers of various sizes and shapes for groups to use. Harris Sales has been generous with bread products, and Pepsi donates beverages to distribute with meals.

At the Community Table, all are welcome. And no one leaves hungry.

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