Cafe Central feeds Milledgeville One Mouth at a Time

Raleigh Hutchison

Cafe Central feeds Milledgeville One Mouth at a Time

Cafe Central, Milledgeville’s only soup kitchen, is the dream of Ann Bowen, who saw a need for
change in the local homeless community 11 years ago. Bowen, hurting for the impoverished
around her, teamed up with Central Church to start serving. A few years later they moved to
Freedom Church where the team grew, the kitchen expanded and the dining hall was filled.

While working at Central Church, Bowen was always faced with hungry people coming to their
door asking for food and help. She decided to keep some canned goods in the office and would
serve it whenever somebody came by. Bowen knew the community needed something bigger to
care for the heavily impoverished city.

“One day I asked our priest at Central Church if he found somebody to start a soup kitchen and
serve the homeless,” Bowen said, “he said yes he’d found someone. When I asked who, he said,
you.” Bowen didn’t know how to start but she knew if she wanted the change to begin she had to
be the one to start it.

Bowen laughed remembering how intricately she set up the place settings and carefully made the
food on their first day open. Specifically placing the white plate on the place mat, the utensils on
the correct sides, and a cloth napkin folded just so.

“They don’t care what the food looks like,” she said, “they’re just happy to be here and eat good
food with good people.” Anyone who comes into Cafe Central can get as many servings as they
desire and take as much home as they want.

Bowen does much of the work herself. She applies for grants which fund their kitchen supplies,
including their brand new industrial oven and stove. Most of their food is donated by middle
Georgia’s food bank and meat donated from the local Kroger.

A few years into serving Bowen welcomed their full-time cook whose food is to die for.
“Especially that fried chicken,” Bowen said with her mouth nearly watering. Every week
volunteers fill the space to help serve. Feeding nearly 500 households a week requires a lot of
hands on deck.

Last spring Cafe Central had to close their dining hall and switch to distanced food pickups.
Luckily, they acted quickly and constructed a new plan of feeding the community. Now every
other Tuesday a long line of cars trails through the parking lot. Upon arrival each household fills
out a list of their needs and by the time they pull up to the front of the line their boxes are ready
and packed into their car.

Bowen hopes dearly that soon they can return to the open dining room. She’s met hundreds of
magnificent, open-hearted community members who have shown her the grace of service.
Bowen misses welcoming in her Cafe Central family with a warm embrace, gentle smile, and
genuinely asking “how are you today?”

All are welcome to serve at Cafe Central simply by showing up and giving back. Visit, call 478-452-7694, or visit Freedom Church on Tuesdays from
11a.m to 1p.m.