On the serving line

“All in all, it’s been wonderful,” says Chris Milligan, Preble Street Foodservice Operations Manager, about operating the kitchen at the City of Portland’s new Homeless Services Center (HSC). “We’ve gone through some trial and error as we settle into this new space, and we’re at a point where things are running pretty smoothly. Once we have more volunteers to help with our lunch and dinner shifts, it’ll be amazing.”

Preble Street provides lunch and dinner to the 208 guests staying at the HSC, the City of Portland-run shelter that opened this past spring. Because the HSC kitchen is not equipped for cooking, meals are prepared off-site at the Preble Street Food Security Hub and brought into the City’s shelter. “It’s a serving kitchen, a space that we have to move food into and serve out of, so the Hub is an essential component of the work as far as the quality and livelihood of the HSC’s food service,” shares Chris.

With only two staff members present, the HSC kitchen relies heavily on Preble Street volunteers in order to provide plated meals. Until recently, they only had capacity to provide meals in to-go boxes that clients could eat in the cafeteria. Now, on days that enough volunteers are present, the kitchen can offer more conventional plated service, which allows for more interaction between the individuals working the serving line and the people receiving meals.

These are some of the most caring and kind people I’ve ever met,” Chris says of the 208 shelter guests, who are made up of a combination of local individuals experiencing homelessness and asylum seekers. “They help each other and work together to solve problems that may arise in any congregate living situation. I was worried communicating with some of the New Mainers would be difficult with the language barrier, but so many clients have helped translate for each other. Other clients help by bringing meals over to individuals who may have mobility issues. It’s been beautiful to see.”

Over the last year, Preble Street has provided over 1,000,000 meals to people experiencing homelessness and hunger in Maine. Along with the meals served at the HSC, meals are also provided to area shelters, local individuals and families through the food pantry, and — thanks to the Street Outreach Collaborative — to people living unsheltered in Portland. While we have an incredible Food Services staff, we could not create all the food needed without volunteers! If you’re interested in joining these efforts, please click here or contact

Chris Milligan and Denise Evans prepping lunch

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