WINTHROP — Free lunch was served to about three dozen diners Wednesday as the Winthrop Hot Meal Kitchen ended a seven-month hiatus and resumed serving daily mid-day meals at St. Francis Xavier Church Hall.

The program stopped last spring after a church official said it lacked a board of directors, an up-to-date tax ID number and liability insurance. In a cost-cutting move, the parish also sought rent from the kitchen.

Pork roast, herb stuffing, wilted kale, salad, brownies and cookies were on the menu Wednesday, and the mouth-watering aroma filled the hall.

Joe Cook, a volunteer member of the Hot Meal Kitchen Board, turned up at 9 a.m. to assist on reopening day, and counted the diners as they came through the door and sat at tables.

“They’re just so happy; it’s indescribable,” Cook said. “They’re all getting together and reminiscing, asking, ‘What did you do since May?’ It’s a good thing.”

If you weren’t there, he said, “You’re missing out on a good meal.”

The Winthrop Hot Meal Kitchen Board agreed to pay $400 a month rent for the use of the hall, and got liability insurance and 501c3 nonprofit status, according to Craig Hickman, the board’s secretary.

Those requirements were set last year by the Rev. Francis Morin, St. Michael Parish administrator, following an inspection of the program by the Diocesan Property Management Office, which manages the church property. The rent is aimed at offsetting utility costs.

The rent and insurance are being paid from the $3,200 raised through a special collection at the church, and other donations.

“I’m just really glad it’s all settled, and they’re able to serve the way they have in the past,” Morin said on Wednesday.

Some two dozen people who couldn’t make it by noon on Wednesday arranged to pick up the meals packed to go from Hickman at his business, Annabessacook Farm Bed & Breakfast, by 6 p.m.

While the hot meal kitchen was on hiatus, Hickman cooked a meal at the farm on Wednesdays, and people would pick it up there. Hickman previously helped with the program’s cooking on Wednesdays and he was back at the stove when it reopened.

“As a board, what we learned from doing it on Wednesdays (at the farm) is that we get a pretty different group of families, younger families with children,” he said.

Hickman said he likes to combine fellowship and food.

“There so much need and so many different kinds of people who need,” he said.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

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