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Scranton food kitchen undergoing renovations

It started with a new roof.

“Then we decided, looking around the building, it's time for a facelift," said Rob Williams, executive director of the St. Francis of Assisi Kitchen.

Inside the meal center on Wednesday, May 17, chairs were legs up on tables as they prepared to move their operations for 10 weeks. The building, dedicated in 1986, is in the process of a much-needed update.

“I'm calling it a once in a generation renovation," Williams said.

When Williams started in 2019, the roof had to be fixed three separate times. In 2022, it was replaced entirely, leading to today’s renovations, which started in April.

A damp and musty glass enclosure around the entrance on Penn Avenue was removed. Sidewalks and steps were replaced. Crews are working inside to create a space for a new walk-in cooler. That will help accommodate large perishable items. The ceiling will be replaced and LED lighting added. Kitchen appliances will either be brand new or updated. All of the kitchen’s bathrooms will be accessible to people with disabilities.

Selena Hitchens is the soup kitchen’s head chef. She worked at the Scranton restaurant, the 16th Ward, before moving to St. Francis to give back.

“This is what they look forward to," she said. "And that was the biggest thing in me, making the change is me being able to go home feeling like I did something big for our community."

The Lackawanna College Culinary School graduate said the renovations will make the kitchen more efficient.

Williams says the soup kitchen isn’t only about providing meals.

"One of the big things that we provide is that sense of community and coming to the table together," he said.

Lackawanna College donated their commercial kitchen to prepare the meals.

Williams said they’re aiming to be back in the kitchen on Penn Avenue by July 28.

“We've been here for 40 years, we're gonna be around for a lot longer," said Williams.

Beginning Friday, May 19, the daily 11 a.m. meals and the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 5 p.m. meals will be served at Meals on Wheels event space, the Space at Olive, 541 Wyoming Avenue, Scranton. The 11 a.m. midday meal on Saturday and Sunday will be served in ‘grab and go’ containers from St. Francis Food Pantry at 504 Penn Ave., Scranton.

Kat Bolus is the community reporter for the newly-formed WVIA News Team. She is a former reporter and columnist at The Times-Tribune, a Scrantonian and cat mom.