Community Garden Kitchen is a nonprofit that aims to create a true restaurant experience while helping those who may experience food insecurity, co-founder and President Angela Poen said. The kitchen opened its doors in McKinney on June 7 and served over 1,000 people in the first three weeks. Poen described her journey in establishing the kitchen as a “steep learning” curve while also trying to find the courage to network and fundraise for this project. “I’m nobody to just walk into a place and say, ‘Can you give me some money so I can build a kitchen?’’’ Poen said. “A lot of the money came in $25 at a time.” After discovering that Collin County does not have a place that serves freshly prepared meals, Poen worked with the North Texas Food Bank in 2014 to determine the severity of the county’s food insecurity, which is when people do not know when they will have their next meal. Poen found that before the COVID-19 pandemic, 138,000 people in Collin County fell into food insecurity at least once a year. That is when Poen’s mission to open Community Garden Kitchen began.Community Garden Kitchen serves freshly prepared meals for free donated from local grocery stores and organizations as well as produce from its on-site garden. Run completely by volunteers, the one paid employee is the executive chef who Poen said comes in and determines the dishes for the evening each day. In addition to the donated produce, the kitchen also receives a variety of assorted desserts that are presented on a tray to diners so they can choose what they would like to have. “We feed anyone who is hungry, no questions asked, no paperwork,” Poen said. “We do keep track of how many [people] come in.” Poen said she strives to create an environment that feels like a true cafe and reduce guests’ anxiety to help them “dine with dignity,” she said. The kitchen also provides helpful resources, such as counseling, housing and more. Other organizations are invited to come and present their services at the kitchen’s “Additional Services” table. “We’re bringing the people in with food and hopefully introducing them to some other services that they might not know,” Poen said. During the day outside of kitchen hours, the facility is used for the kitchen’s partner and neighbor Holy Family School. This agreement was established by the kitchen’s sponsor the Episcopal Diocese, which established a lease for the kitchen’s space, and is completely debt free, Poen said. The community’s support for her project has been the greatest gift she’s seen, she said. “We are just providing meals and compassion, giving people a smile that maybe they haven’t received all day,” Poen said. Community Garden Kitchen 501 Howard St., McKinney Hours: Mon.-Thu. 6-8 p.m., Fri.-Sun. closed