To feed the homeless is a political act, and a spiritual one. Politically, we make our entire community stronger by taking care of the weakest and most vulnerable among us. Personally, we expand ourselves by being in touch with people outside our usual circle of acquaintance.
I have been learning to cook meals for about 30 people that I can make by myself in my home kitchen. I expect to cook with other people in bigger kitchens one day, but I want to be able to provide a meal on my own, when necessary.
I’m cooking with meat, because when you ask people living in homeless camps what they want you to bring, the answer is “Meat!” I know there are ethical issues involved with using factory-farm ground beef, for example, but I have decided for the moment to err on the side of concentrated protein that I can prepare efficiently. When I have time, I will source ethical, affordable ground beef.
The meals I have served so far are some variation on a ground beef stew: chili, goulash (beef and vegetables), or Sloppy Joes. I serve corn muffins as an accompaniment. This is a compact, satisfying, and nourishing meal, and I have, to my gratification, received many compliments on the cuisine.
Recently, I’ve developed a protein-dense baked loaf, which I call rumble pie, which is well-suited for delivery to less-organized encampments where there is no central “kitchen tent.” My mentor, Polly Trout of Patacara Community Services, explained to me that at camps where people are “living in their addictions” it’s important to provide individually wrapped items. You can’t count on the campers to maintain hygiene when serving themselves from a central pot, as you can in the clean-and-sober encampments.
I shop at Cash and Carry, where restaurants go to get their food. The lots are big and the prices are low. I can feed 30 people for about $50. I cook for two camps, once a week for each. So I’m spending about $400 per month on this project. I can afford it, for the time being, but as I learn more about how to do this, I’ll be asking for support from people who believe in the mission.