Toni’s Kitchen, a food ministry of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Montclair, broke ground on a significant expansion of its space on Saturday, June 18. 

The expansion project will open up over 5,000 square feet of space below the sanctuary building but currently inaccessible. 

The new space will house pallets of food, shelving units, work spaces and a large walk-in fridge/freezer and be easily accessible by Toni’s Kitchen workers. 

“We are blessed to have space to expand into,” the Rev. John Mennell, rector, said. “It is important that our food ministry has the facilities it needs to do this most important work of caring for our neighbors who are struggling.” 

Toni’s Kitchen has been significantly affected by the overwhelming rise in the demand for food support since the onset of COVID-19. Programs for seniors, recent immigrants, families with young children, students aging out of foster care and those without stable housing have all seen exponential growth. In 2021, Toni’s Kitchen provided 1.5 million meals in the community, up from 240,000 in 2019. 

“We see continued high need in the foreseeable future,” Anne Mernin, executive director, said. “Inflation, the churn in the local housing market and global instability in food production are all impacting low-income families and individuals.” 

Toni’s Kitchen started as a small soup kitchen of St. Luke’s in 1982 and has grown into a major hunger relief organization serving Montclair, Bloomfield and West Orange.