Food insecurity is an issue for 204,240 people in Hillsborough County; 72,900 of them are children. One in six people in our region don’t know where their next meal will come from. Florida is fourth in the nation in family hunger. Fifteen years ago, a church group decided to tackle this hunger problem. 1.2 million meals later, Trinity Café continues to serve tasty and nutritious meals 365 days a year.

The mission of Trinity Café is to restore a sense of dignity to the homeless and hungry while serving a nutritious meal. We faithfully treat all of God’s children with acceptance, compassion, love and respect.

Very unlike a soup kitchen, the café operates like a fine dining restaurant, complete with master chefs, maître d’s, tablecloths, centerpieces, meals served in courses and a host at each table to engage the guests in friendly conversation. Consistent with the mission statement, dignity and respect are keywords in the operation of the café. At the heart of this operation is a substantial cadre of volunteers that performs most of the setup, serving and hosting tasks. Feeding Tampa Bay, along with a variety of donors, supplies raw materials to an impressive kitchen opera-tion at the Nebraska Avenue location, where the meals are prepared.

When Trinity Café had the opportunity to open a second location at the Busch Boulevard location (First Church of God Tampa), it was necessary to double the volunteer base. At the urging of the A-Men of St Andrew church, the members stepped up and committed to regular, scheduled participation. We were there on opening day, April 25, 2016 and have served on the first Tuesday of each month since. Beginning January 2017, our scheduled participation grew to twice monthly—first Tuesday and third Thursday. Additionally, some of us also sign up individually to serve independently of the church group.

A word about the guests: There is no qualifying, vetting, paperwork, preaching or conditions other than declaring that they need a meal. They come from all walks of life, in all ages, in all kinds of personal circumstances, with all kinds of experiences and with a diversity of faith systems. Some are interactive; some are introverted. Many are regulars. Most are grateful.

A word about the volunteers: They must be at least 16 years of age and must wear close-toed shoes. They come from all walks of life, in all ages (16+), in all kinds of personal circumstances, with all kinds of experiences and with a diversity of faith systems. Some are interactive; some are introverted. Many are regulars. Most are grateful.

In short, it’s a level playing field where the volunteers and the guests are separated merely by a simple twist of fate. All God’s children. And, of course, He is there among us.

Frank Weaver