ANTIOCH -- The biblical "loaves and fishes" story tells how Jesus was able to feed thousands with just five loaves of bread and two fish.
But for Denise Cain, the modern-day Loaves and Fishes of Contra Costa not only helps fill her belly -- it allows her to stretch a limited income.
Thousands of residents, many of whom are homeless, battling drug or alcohol addictions, or underemployed or not employed at all, enjoy hot meals at the Antioch dining room inside the American Legion Hall, which has been in operation for a decade.
Cain, of Antioch, earns about $700 a month on disability after a bout with breast cancer.
"It helps me because I'm able to use my cash to pay for PG&E and water bills, stuff like that," said Cain, who says she comes for meals three to five days a week. "I use (Loaves and Fishes) to my full advantage to be able to eat."
On Thursday, the mother of six, three of whom are adults living solo, had just finished a lunch of rigatoni with a sausage-filled red pasta sauce, garlic bread and fruit salad. Cain was spending time with her 5-year-old son, Scott, whom she sees only on a limited basis because of child custody issues.
Cain said many of her days are filled with attending classes for drug addiction, parenting and domestic violence as "she is trying to work on herself."
Antioch is the busiest of the five Loaves and Fishes dining room sites, according to data from the nonprofit. In 2012, the Antioch Loaves and Fishes location served 29,176 meals -- 626 more than the second-highest location, in Pittsburg.
The Antioch site served 3,060 meals in February.
"It's really taken off in the last two years," said Joleen Lafayette, the nonprofit's development director.
She attributes the growth to people struggling to find jobs because of the economic downturn and word-of-mouth.
Fawn Wolf says she's been coming with her three children "pretty much daily" for the past year because it's within walking distance of her home and the food is delicious.
Her favorite item on the menu: the fruit salad.
"I love it. I appreciate that they try to make it healthy," Wolf said. "We've been living pretty close to paycheck to paycheck. This helps me out a lot."
The 150 to 175 people who drop in each day are also able to grab donated nonperishable items for later in the evening or during the week. Fresh produce is brought in on Fridays, said volunteer service manager Eleanor Bonner.
The spike in demand, along with increased food and supply costs and decreased donations from benefactors, prompted Loaves and Fishes officials to organize a Texas Hold 'Em poker fundraiser, which will be held later this month.
"We don't want to have to get to the point where we have to cut service," Lafayette said. "There are too many that depend on this place."
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.
What: Texas Hold 'Em Poker Tournament Benefit
When: April 13
Where: VFW Post #6435, 815 Fulton Shipyard Road, Antioch
Cost: $65. Those registered before Monday receive $200 in extra chips.
Information: 925-687-6760 or www.loavesfishescc.org.