The Breaking Bread lunch and dinner service has been a staple in Palo Alto, providing free meals at local churches to homeless and other needy residents for decades. The nonprofit organization LifeMoves, which has been operating the program for the past five years, announced earlier this month that it would no longer be serving lunch and dinner, deciding instead to serve breakfast at the Opportunity Services Center.
"We looked at ways we could make the program more impactul and we saw that there was a real gap around breakfast," LifeMoves CEO Bruce Ives told the Weekly in a recent interview, adding that the decision to switch to breakfast was made in an effort to "fill a void."
Ives said that the organization received support from program stakeholders including the city, volunteers and the faith-based community before moving forward with the change. He also noted that adding breakfast to the pre-existing meal services wouldn't have been a feasible option due to a limited capacity of staff and volunteers.
While the Opportunity Services Center, located at 33 Encina Ave., already had an existing breakfast program, Ives said that LifeMoves is bringing in its resources to upgrade the offerings and serve more hot, balanced and nutritious meals as opposed to the continental style breakfast the center provided prior to this collaborative effort.
One longtime volunteer felt the decision to close the meal program was unfortunate.
"I've been involved with Breaking Bread for about 20 years so, my initial reaction to the change was tremendous disappointment," said Carol Blitzer, who is also a contributing writer to the Palo Alto Weekly.
"It's true that there isn't another group serving breakfast, so there is a need there," she said. "But it's disingenuous to say there are plenty of other organizations providing lunch and dinner meals (in Palo Alto), because there aren't."
Laurence Wertman, a Palo Alto resident who said he's participated in the Breaking Bread lunch and dinner program for several years, shared similar sentiments.
"LifeMoves names nine other places serving lunch and/or dinner, but five of them are in San Mateo County, and if you don't have a car, it's harder to go," he told the Weekly in an interview after submitting a letter to the editor opposing the change.
In the weeks before changing the program, LifeMoves distributed a flyer with a list of locations that still provide lunch and dinner services, some of which are strictly for seniors, such as lunch programs at Stevenson House located at 455 E. Charleston Road and the Masonic Center at 461 Florence St. The list also included services in surrounding cities like St. Anthony's Church in Menlo Park and the Ecumenical Hunger Program in East Palo Alto.
In a statement issued this week, LifeMoves announced that homeless and low-income residents who participate in the breakfast program will have access to the additional services that the Opportunity Services Center provides, including emergency rental and utility assistance, health care, case management and free clothing.
"We are excited to refine Breaking Bread to better meet the needs of our clients. We can support them today with a nutritious hot breakfast and help them change their tomorrow with effective case management," Ives said in the statement.
The new breakfast program officially kicked off Thursday morning, Aug. 15, when there were about 50 guests for breakfast and about a dozen volunteers, according to Ives. The service will be offered Monday through Friday from 8:30-10:30 a.m.