Volunteer Jeff Bloom tends a giveaway table while a guest looks over what’s available. (Courtesy Lois O’Halloran/Faith Café)
Volunteer Jeff Bloom tends a giveaway table while a guest looks over what’s available. (Courtesy Lois O’Halloran/Faith Café)
One of the corporal acts of mercy is to feed the hungry. That’s what Faith Café has done.

Though started by Catholic parishes west of Portland, it has expanded into an interfaith endeavor. Barb Upson, a current member of the board of Faith Café and the project’s financial secretary, has been involved from the start. She had been working with the Oregon Food Bank when she asked how she and some other parishioners could help with food in the area.

“There’s quite a lot of food pantries around but there are no hot meal programs in all of Washington County.”

Faith Café started as a project of the parishes of the Beaverton Vicariate in 2005: Holy Trinity, St. Cecilia, St. John Fisher, St. Pius X, and St. Juan Diego.

From there the project expanded to groups of other denominations and that is how the group got a building. When the ministry outgrew its space at a Methodist church, the United Church of Christ offered their Beaverton church, and that’s where the feeding has been carried out for the past decade.

Volunteers come from all faith groups to help.

“It started as just Catholics but all the others who have joined us each in their own right take ownership in it,” Upson said. “Even on the nights when it's a Catholic church we’ll have a couple of Jewish guys come in.”

Volunteers now serve meals for the homeless from Bethel on Sundays and Thursdays.

When the pandemic shut down indoor dining, Faith Café did as many other groups did, going to takeout only. They never missed a meal.

The crew still offers options for takeout but resumed in-person seating in April. While numbers served haven’t quite returned to pre-pandemic levels, they’re climbing.

Upson said the biggest challenge from the pandemic wasn’t necessarily physical, but mental.

“The way Faith Café was most affected during the pandemic wasn’t the supply chain shortages of clamshells and gloves, etc., but helping our guests deal with their fear, anxiety, uncertainty, and loneliness,” she explained. “We spent a lot of time listening to them and reassuring them that things will get better. Many of our guests said Faith Cafe was the only thing that kept them going all week.”

This sense of community is embodied in the ministry’s tagline: “Feeding our neighbors more than a meal.”

Upson added: “They come the first time for the meal but keep coming back for the sense of community.”