Jay Olzak, Food Service Director for St. Francis Seraph Ministries.

Food Service Director Jay Olzak has worked in kitchens and food service management his whole career. He said there’s something truly special about St. Francis Seraph Ministries (SFSM). 

“Everything about this place is my favorite thing,” Jay said. “This place is super-professional, super-loving, super-caring and super-generous.” 

Jay leads the planning, procurement and production of all breakfast, lunch and dinner offerings. That comprises breakfast service from 7:30-8:30 a.m. and dinner service from 4:30-5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. He also ensures bagged lunches are available for diners to carry out. 

The need in the local community is exceptionally high. Jay and his team routinely serve 200 or more meals at dinnertime. “We’re just serving for one hour, and you’re busy for every minute of it,” he noted. 

Jay makes sure guests always have access to nutritious, wholesome choices, like low-sugar, low-fat cereals and low-fat milk at breakfast. Every dinner features one starch, one protein and one vegetable so diners get a balanced meal. They can come through the line as many times as they like. 

“We try to make this as much like a regular restaurant as possible,” Jay said. “They may be experiencing poverty or may be mentally ill, but they get that bit of normalcy that gives them their dignity.” 

Managing such a large operation requires a lot of spreadsheets, a heaping helping of creativity and the generous support of donors and volunteers. 

Local companies often contribute goods, such as pastries, breads, desserts and proteins ranging from ground beef to whole turkeys. Parishes also help keep the pantry and walk-in freezer well-stocked by donating purchased food, pre-made sandwiches and financial gifts. 

“If we couldn’t spend another penny and didn’t get another donation, I could still do dinners for five weeks,” Jay said. “But that’s not very long in the grand scheme of things. I’m always looking for the next donation and making sure there’s plenty here so nobody goes hungry.” 

The neighbors that SFSM serves come from a variety of backgrounds and circumstances. Some are dealing with mental illness or addiction. Others are housed, but are on the edge of homelessness. All are members of the community who value the chance to spend time in a clean, friendly place where they are welcomed with a warm smile and a hot meal. 

Thanks to Jay and his team, St. Francis Seraph Ministries can make sure guests are not only well-fed, but truly nourished. 

– story courtesy of the SFSM blog