LEWISTON — A handful of people were lined up at dusk in the 29-degree chill behind the Calvary United Methodist Church on a recent Wednesday, waiting for the door to open so they could eat.

Each Wednesday evening and Sunday morning, 50 or more people come to the Calvary City Mission for a free, hot meal in a warm place.

Maine has roughly 60 similar meal programs, sometimes called soup kitchens, a term coined during the Great Depression. They stretch from York to Aroostook to Washington counties, from Alfred to Caribou and to Springfield.

The largest – Preble Street – serves more than 1,100 meals a day, at eight separate soup kitchens in Portland, to homeless people, and to adults and families living in poverty. As with Maine’s 252 food pantries, soup kitchens continue to experience a growing need.

“More and more people are showing up,” said Pat Gardiner, who chairs the Calvary mission program. “There’s a lot of food insecurity downtown.”

Gardiner opened the door at 4:45 p.m. to let guests escape the cold, and they filed inside to sit at tables, drinking hot chocolate and talking.

Joan Boisvert sat by herself. A former hotel housekeeper, she said she lives alone in an apartment and receives government disability payments, as well as $59 a month in food stamps.

“I don’t eat very much at home,” she said. “I don’t have much food in the house. That’s why I come here to eat.”

Jim Lipps is a retired taxi driver from Portland who came to Lewiston six months ago to find a less-expensive apartment. He, too, said he receives government disability payments.

“They always get a good meal out,” Lipps said of the mission.

The menu at a City Mission meal at Calvary United Methodist Church on Wednesday, January 6, 2016.

The menu at a City Mission meal at Calvary United Methodist Church on Jan. 6 Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The menu at a City Mission meal at Calvary United Methodist Church on Wednesday, January 6, 2016.

As do others here, Lipps relies on a network of meal programs in the city to stay fed. He has lunch nearby at the Trinity Jubilee Center, inside the Trinity Episcopal Church. The center serves a meal six days a week and averages 100 visitors each time. It also runs a weekly food pantry.

Shortly after 5 p.m., Gardiner made an announcement.

“We have shepherd’s pie,” she said. “We have fruit salad. We have chocolate and vanilla cake. We’re out of hot chocolate, but we’ll have more on Sunday.”

Gardiner offered a short prayer for the meal. Then she picked a number out of a hat to see which table would go first to the serving line, where volunteers placed the food on trays.

Mark McQueeney was waiting at his table with his son, age 6, and daughter, age 8. The children’s mother, Christina Swan, sat with them. McQueeney said he formerly worked in a brickyard but is unemployed after hurting his back. He now stays at home with the children. While the children get breakfast and lunch at school during the week, McQueeney said he typically eats only once a day.

Amanda Proctor and her boyfriend Chris Swan, both of Lewiston, watch as their son Christopher Swan , 4, takes a bite of cake at a City Mission meal at Calvary United Methodist Church.

Amanda Proctor and her boyfriend, Chris Swan, both of Lewiston, watch as their son Christopher Swan , 4, takes a bite of cake at a City Mission meal at Calvary United Methodist Church. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“Honestly, we don’t have a lot of food at home,” he said. “We come here to make it through the month. We tend to run out.”

Sitting across from McQueeney were Amanda Proctor and Chris Swan, who is Christina Swan’s brother. With them was their 4-year-old son. Proctor said both she and Swan receive government disability payments and she’s waiting to qualify for food stamps.

“This is the first time I’ve been down here,” she said. “We’re kind of hurting for food.”

After the crowd was served, Gardiner reflected on turnout. It’s not unusual to see families, she said, and more young men are coming in. On this evening, two men in fluorescent jackets who said they are working on a road crew joined the group.

“It’s a typical night,” Gardiner said. “We never know how many to plan for and we rarely have leftovers. We invite people up for seconds.”