The Faces of Food Services

The Faces of Food Services

Hunger. For most of us, it’s fleeting. We feel a twinge or small pang, and then we grab a snack. Make a sandwich. Order takeout. Sit and retell our day over a meal with our family. But for thousands in Central New York, hunger is ever-present.

At the Rescue Mission, our goal is to eradicate hunger in our community. We are the only organization in Onondaga County that provides three meals per day, 365 days a year to anyone in need. If you come to the Rescue Mission tomorrow and need a meal, you will be served. No questions, no judgment – just a smile.

In the fall and winter, we are often asked about our plans for Thanksgiving and Christmas community celebrations. But it’s combatting hunger throughout the entire year that truly helps men, women, and children survive and thrive.

When visitors walk into the Clarence L. Jordan Food Service Center for the first time, they often comment on the ambiance. Featuring an open foyer and a brightly lit dining room with an electric fireplace that glows year round, it feels more like a college dining hall than a “soup kitchen.” That’s by design. At a minimum, we should all dine with dignity, and our facility reflects that proudly.

We’d like to share a few of the familiar faces you might see on any given day at the Food Service Center:

Manny joins us each day for meals, accompanied by his elderly mother, Maria. They speak little English, and our staff speak little Spanish, but smiles and small talk go a long way. They will leave with a second helping wrapped up to-go, leftovers for later. At the end of the meal, Maria grabs a small bucket, and helps volunteers wipe down tables. It is her way of expressing gratitude for their meal.

Sherry is a long-time diner at the Rescue Mission. She typically comes alone and can be found razzing the staff or socializing outside with the other guests. But on weekends, in the summer, and on school breaks, her grandchildren are in tow. They have “grown up” at the Rescue Mission. Staff listen as Shawn, now 8, softly shares updates about school. He’s doing well this year – he has a B average.

As lunch winds down, a piano in the corner plays a recognizable pop song. Kendrick is seated at the bench with our chaplain, Rev. Yulon Jones. He just finished his meal, and is now taking song requests from other diners. Kendrick can play music by ear, and the notes bring levity to the dining room.

Behind the Scenes

A volunteer is on the serving line. Her brown hair peeks out from under her cap, and she greets a few guests by name as she spoons chicken stir-fry onto a plate. She comes to the Rescue Mission once a week to help serve lunch. Even during COVID, when it was difficult to schedule volunteers, she was there.

Justin and Steve work in the kitchen. Justin, now a shift supervisor in the Food Service Center, is celebrating 10 years of employment at the Rescue Mission this year. But before he was an employee, he was a resident. He stayed in the Emergency Shelter and then later moved to Gifford Place. Justin recalls that help from the Rescue Mission was crucial, but he had to make the effort to pull himself up.

"If you do what you’ve got to do, they’ll help you. You just got to put the work in."


Steve lost his job and was evicted from his apartment. He eventually resorted to living outdoors – sleeping in crawl spaces. He often visited the Rescue Mission for a daily meal or two. “When I was out there, people would look at me, but not look at me… It makes you feel like you’re nobody, like you don’t exist.” The Rescue Mission helped Steve secure an apartment of his own. Today, Steve will tell you he is no longer a “nobody”, he is a member of the Rescue Mission family – you can find him in the Food Service Center as our full-time dishwasher.

The back half of the kitchen is a-buzz. Nikki is making lunch for the residents at Crossroads Adult Home. They eat in their private dining room, but their meals are made here. Behind her, you can find the culinary students. Adults learn back-of-house skills during the school year, and teens explore culinary career paths in the summer.

Last but not least, you are here too. We provide nearly 275,000 meals each year, and we cannot serve them without the help of volunteers and supporters. It costs $3.00 for the Rescue Mission to provide a meal to a hungry man, woman, or child. That amounts to more than $800,000 a year! But for less than the cost of a cup of coffee, you can make an impact and help us feed someone this summer in Syracuse. $30.00 helps provide a meal for 10 individuals today, $63.00 helps provide someone with three meals a day for an entire week, and $93.00 helps provide one meal every day for a month.

Plus, when you give to the Rescue Mission, you do more than provide a meal. You help provide shelter. You help provide Street Outreach. You support individuals in need in Syracuse, Auburn, and Binghamton. You PUT LOVE INTO ACTION.

The men, women, and children served by the Rescue Mission are grateful for your support. So am I. So is Justin. “I wouldn’t have had anywhere else to go,” Justin recalls. “[The Rescue Mission] is available to help people in need. So, I say ‘thank you.’”

Daily Meals at the Clarence L. Jordan Food Service Center:
Breakfast: 7:00-8:00am
Lunch: 11:00-noon
Dinner: 4:00-5:00pm

Interested in helping others?

You can put love into action by giving a financial gift today!