BAR HARBOR — A tradition of free community meals here restarted this week after a hiatus of more than two years. A new initiative called “Open Table MDI,” spearheaded by residents Purnajot Kaur Khalsa and her husband MahanDeva Singh Khalsa over the last few months, hosted a fundraising event Saturday and its first community meal Tuesday.
The project is sponsored by Healthy Acadia, which gives it nonprofit status.
“We are all about feeding people and providing an opportunity for the community to come together,” Kaur Khalsa said. “We feel like that helps community members inspire one another.”
For several years beginning in November 2011, a group called Food For All hosted Thursday suppers at the Holy Redeemer Catholic Church on Mount Desert Street. That project was headed by Chris Brown of Brown Family Farm, and it used mostly food that otherwise would have been headed to the Hannaford Supermarket trash bin.
After those dinners stopped happening due to renovations at the church, Kaur Khalsa believed it left a hole in the community.
“We’ve been percolating the idea of bringing the dinners back,” Kaur Khalsa said. “We identified the need to be filled, and we stepped in.”
Rob Benson, pastor at the Bar Harbor Congregational Church, opened up the parish hall to the group. Open Table also relies on a number of volunteers to cook and serve food.
“This is all possible because of the support of the community,” Kaur Khalsa said. “It feels good.”
The benefit party Saturday, held at the Neighborhood House in Northeast Harbor, raised $6,000 for Open Table MDI. It featured a silent auction with donated items and live music and dancing with The Blake Rosso Band, Banned From Eden, Mondo Charlie and Phil Kell & Friends.
For the first meal Feb. 6, the menu included a southern-style stew with black-eyed peas and cauliflower, braised kale with crimini mushrooms, a mixed green salad and biscuits with maple butter. Singh Khalsa, who helped prepare the meal, said he learned how to cook from a stint working at the Burning Tree Restaurant in Otter Creek.
Bob Bowman also played music at the dinner.
Kaur Khalsa said she hopes to involve local farmers during their growing season as the project grows.
The next supper is set for March 13. Eventually, Open Table MDI hopes to hold meals weekly as the initiative picks up steam.