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Church potluck meal service exempt from health board regulations

Living Water Fellowship's service given official determination


AYER – After spending a month trying to clarify her efforts, Cyndi Lavin earned a victory last week as the Nashoba Associated Boards of Health and the Ayer Board of Health have deemed her Stone Soup Kitchen Potluck officially as a potluck.

Lavin had appeared in front of the Ayer Board of Health twice in November to claim her efforts offering free meals to less fortunate residents at the Living Water Fellowship on Littleton Road was exempt from board regulations.

Bridgette Braley, district sanitarian for the Nashoba boards, confirmed on Tuesday that Stone Soup Kitchen Potluck’s actions fall under the definition of a potluck operated by a religious group. She claimed that the reason for the lengthy discussion between the health boards and town counsel was due to the process being “at the mercy” of state regulation.

“We do enforce state regulations and sometimes it needs more interpretation,” Braley said. “No action needs to be taken by the Board of Health, so this has a happy ending.”

Braley sent a letter to Lavin on Dec. 5 notifying her of the boards’ decision, which also noted how the Department of Public Health and its General Counsel deemed Lavin’s previous work serving meals at the Apple Valley Baptist Church on Columbia Street met the criteria of a soup kitchen.

Braley’s letter said that if Lavin changes her meal-serving format in any other way in the future, it should comply with state sanitary standards for food establishments.

Lavin previously served meals at Apple Valley for six years before its soup kitchen was suspended by the Ayer Board of Health in June. The board saw that the church’s kitchen was not up to Ayer’s health code and that volunteers were not properly certified to prepare food for the soup kitchen.

Lavin posted a message on the Stone Soup Kitchen Potluck Facebook page on Monday.

“I cannot even begin to thank all of you enough for your love, encouragement, and support during the six months that we struggled to get to this place,” the post read. “Please join me in being ‘gracious winners’ and in being thankful for this outcome. Let’s not let ill will or rancor have any place in our celebration, especially at this time of year. I love you all, and I am so grateful to live in this town with all of you.”


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