Have you ever wondered how Our Daily Bread manages to feed a hot lunch to a thousand or more people 365 days a year? We’ve been doing it since 1982 without missing a single meal! The whole program is dependent upon two very important groups of volunteers – the casserole makers and the lunch servers.

On an average day, we use about 130 casseroles – all donated by volunteer casserole makers (that’s about 4,000 casseroles a month). Some of the casseroles are made by individuals, but most are made by groups of people who are regular casserole makers. Each group is lead by a Casserole Czar. Some of our ODB casserole-making groups have been making casseroles for us since 1982 when we first opened our doors.

For various reasons, ODB goes through periods when we don’t have enough casserole makers and we’re having one of those casserole shortages now!

To learn more about the art of organizing casserole-making groups, we interviewed the Casserole Czar from St. Jane’s parish in Pasadena, Vernon Weinkam. The parish has been making and donating casseroles to ODB for more than 25 years. The group’s regular donation day is the 5th Friday or Monday of the month. There’s also a regular group of 14 from St. Jane’s who help serve the meal on that day, along with other volunteers (it takes 40 volunteers per day for meal service).

Mr. Weinkam became the group leader in 2003. He recently shared his tips on collecting casseroles from the parish. The first secret to success is handing out casserole pans after Mass on Sundays. At St. Janes, they give out about 80 per week. Each pan contains the recipe they use. It’s important that everyone use exactly the same recipe. It’s been perfected over the years, and all the casseroles are combined when they are reheated and served at ODB, so they all need to be the same.

It costs about $10 – 12 to make one casserole, so it’s good that the members of the parish are able to share the responsibility. Mr. Weinkam has tried various times and methods of reminding people to pick up pans to make casseroles and found that an announcement at the end of the service works best. There’s always an announcement in the bulletin, too, but the verbal reminder helps cue people to pick up a pan on the way out the door. In addition to their meal-serving volunteers, they also have pan-dispensing volunteers for Sunday after Mass. He and his wife also mention the casserole program everywhere they go to encourage people to either make casseroles or organize their own casserole programs. Several new casserole groups have been formed this way.

The St. Jane’s casserole recipe (franks and beans) is easy to make. You can find other tried and true ODB casserole recipes on our website. Everything goes right into the casserole pan, then gets stirred together and immediately frozen. The freezing is important, because the casseroles get stacked for storage; unfrozen casseroles slosh out of the pans. Mr. Weinkam says another key to a successful casserole program is to make it easy for people to drop off their frozen casseroles at the Rectory. The Rectory is only open from 9 – 4, so he and other volunteers meet people there a couple of days a week at 7:30 in the morning and at 5:30 in the evening to make it easier for those who work to drop off their meals. There are also volunteers who will pick up the casseroles at peoples’ homes if they can’t drop them off.

During the summer, St. Jane’s has more casseroles and volunteers as children and teens on summer break have time to help out while earning service hours. Even this veteran casserole Czar has challenges, though. The overall size of the parish has decreased, so this has decreased his available pool of casserole makers, and they are not able to donate as many casseroles now as they have in the past. This trend is affecting many groups, contributing to the overall ODB casserole shortage.

Please consider organizing a casserole group among your friends or other group. Every contribution helps. Remember, we need at least 130 casseroles a day, 7 days a week! And without generous food donors, many people in need may go hungry. We especially need more food donations at the end of each month as the working poor turn to us for food when meager pay checks are exhausted paying other bills. For more information, please contact our volunteer office, 443-986-9031 or [email protected]