Spreading Love Through Food, Double SC Chef’s Meal Gift

Taneka Miller didn’t have a plan when she started donating meals at Fountain Inn, she has a gift she just wanted to share with the community.

Miller is ready to provide more than meals with her Tuesday freebies. She has received a gift, she says, and also wants to use it to nourish bodies and souls.

“I don’t just want to feed your body,” Miller said, “I want to feed the heart.”

Her daughter dubbed it “Operation Spread Love Through Food,” and they do.

Bella, who just turned 7, sets the week’s menu and Miller gets to work. She spends at least four hours shopping at several grocers on Monday for her ever-growing list of ingredients.

Preparation begins around 3 a.m. so the first meal is seasoned to perfection and ready to be served 12 hours later. While the first gift was made in his front yard and a few families showed up early, he’s now moved to Golden View Baptist Church where families can dine together.

She has served over 100 people every week since late March and it all started with a Facebook post in the Fountain Inn Residents group. Three weeks later, she has only 200 meals left and has a semi-permanent home at the church.

At first, she was reluctant to accept donations in exchange for meals. She refused the money and they gave it to her mother instead, she said. They sent money to her account through mobile payment apps so she didn’t have a chance to say ‘no’.

Bakers are donating desserts and supporters have donated gift cards, money and baby supplies so even those who can’t enjoy chicken or meatloaf in the oven yet will walk away with a free meal and a full stomach.

“That’s what funded the second food giveaway,” Miller said. “It’s as if I was just recycling the funds. Everything that people have blessed me with, I use to bless others.

Meals are prepared for comfort, she said, cooked solo by her own hands. She has mum’s help with cleaning and her dad will run the fryer as the menu calls for it, she said.

She also doesn’t overlook the members of Earth, Wind and Fire who set the mood in her kitchen. The set and sounds of 90s rhythm and blues bands bring some extra soul to its soul food.

Other than that, it’s a one-woman show in the kitchen. A handful of family members and friends help prepare and serve the meals. This core group has grown to include members of Golden View and others who want to serve their community.

There’s no expectation of people showing up for a meal, she says, other than to enjoy it. Busy parents who want a night out of the kitchen and those struggling financially are just as welcome as someone who can afford to eat in a restaurant, she said.

It’s a non-judgmental zone at Operation Spread Love Through Food.

In fact, it may be the only rule she ever put in place for her recipients. There is no judging, no expectation of return of effort, and no photos or videos showing who is attending the contest.

“You can’t bless anyone with expectations,” she said. “If you want to give, just give from the heart. I didn’t expect it to get this big, and that’s because it’s what our community needs.

She was shocked to hear how widely word of her first Facebook post about the free meals had spread. She doesn’t even know 5,000 people, she laughed.

“I met a young lady going through chemo and she told me she hadn’t had a home-cooked meal in weeks because she was paying for her medication out of pocket,” Miller said of the first giveaway. . “Another elderly couple, same financial situation and she said they ate sandwiches every day. I’m grateful to be able to do what I love to do and bless the community in the process.

After nearly 24 hours of shopping, preparing meals, cooking and cleaning, Miller said there was a weekly mix of feelings. She’s been in a lot of their shoes, she said, as a busy mom or trying to stretch a paycheck.

“I’m physically exhausted by the time I get home,” she said. “I feel fulfilled at the end knowing that I fed those people. It’s a great feeling to know that I can do this for people.

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