Toni’s Kitchen was started in 1982 by parishioners at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church with the simple mission to “serve our neighbors in need.” Following the lead of a soup kitchen in nearby Paterson, people arriving for a hot meal were treated as guests and served restaurant style. The parishioners felt that this approach offered more dignity and respect than the traditional “stand in line” soup kitchen model.
At the time, Antoinette “Toni” Green was the cook for the South End Day Care Center, also housed at St. Luke’s. Toni agreed to be the lead cook for the new ministry and brought her years of experience and talent to the project. Described as a generous, “spirit-filled and amazing” woman, she was the perfect choice both to cook and lend her name to the new program.
Toni’s Kitchen served meals for the next 20 years without interruption and despite challenges to resources and operations. By, 2005, we had more than 250 volunteers, had formed key partnerships and had reorganized kitchen operations, revitalizing the ministry to the community. In 2015, a total of 52,000 meals were provided on-site and in the community through our Family Outreach Initiative.
Today, Toni’s is “more than soup,” serving healthy meals and connecting guests with financial, health and counseling services. Toni’s Kitchen is now busy 7 days a week.