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Where are the best free hot meals?

I believe there are many new homeless people with recent home foreclosures, etc. Just because (We) are homeless doesn't mean we don't care what we eat. Where are the best and safest places on The San Francisco Peninsula for free hot meals? Please reply, and I will also post one when I find one...

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  1. Not the San Francisco Peninsula, but in the east bay area and maybe not exactly what you had in mind, but just to add to you knowledge base, I like to go to the Sikh Temple in El Sobrante on Sundays. In my mind, going to the service, listening to the singing and music is part of the fun. The temple serves "langar" (free meal) starting around 11:00 a.m. I think they also serve breakfast! For the initial serving, you wait in line and volunteers dish the entrees out in line. Then you take your plate and find a place on the floor or out on the deck. The food is ALWAYS good!
    While you eat, more volunteers stroll by and you can have seconds....or thirds.....or fourths. The meal generally consists of chapatis and 3 or 4 other hot vegetarian entrees. There are also a limited selection of East Indian sweets. The temple doesn't even solicit donations! Of course, it would be nice to contribute SOMETHING to the temple, even if it's a bag of rice.
    Temple protocol: Remove your shoes (there are volunteers who will polish them while you are in the temple!), place a covering over your head (If you are going into the temple itself; not required if you are eating) and wash your hands. (Of course,you will have arrived freshly bathed as well.)

    1 Reply
    1. re: MKatrinaToo

      This sounds like it would be a great suggestion, except, um, if one is homeless will one really be able to arrive 'freshly bathed'...?

      For the OP: I'd check out Glide. Definitely safe, and all welcome. I can't personally vouch for the tastiness of the food, but my recollection from volunteering there (it has been a long, long time) is that it is good. In any event, I like their motto: "When people are hungry, you feed them"


      Good luck, and do report back!

    2. A few more ideas: plenty of opportunities by community groups for free meals around Lake Merritt in Oakland, but those occasions are sporadic.
      Don't laugh at the following suggestions, but you asked: Get a copy of the Bingo Bugle(r) (?) Many parlors have a free hot meal on certain days. I'm not sure if you have to buy the bingo cards ahead of time, tho.
      An outfit called "El Dorado Ranch" used to have free dinner seminars around the bay area in nice restaurants; I don't know if they still do, but hey, they let you eat first and then give you a fairly brief presentation.
      If I think of more (and there are, I just can't recall them right now), I will post them.

      1. Many Hare Krishna temples offer a free meal - usually yummy too!

        1 Reply
        1. re: jbyoga

          I second that. Tried it in LA great vegetarian food.

        2. It would help to know the exact location on the penninusla.

          However, if you are looking for an area to roost, I would personally seek out the area with th best social services rather than the best food. If there are adequate social services, you can get housing which would alliviate some of the challenges

          Until I know what specific area you are located, the best I can offer is some generic recs.

          As mentioned churches offer free food... not limited to homeless.

          As a Catholic, I know there are often church festivals when the food is free at times of the year. I've had free food at pre-Christmas Filimpino and Mexican events. In El Cerrito there was a free Nigerean food festival. I had a free dinner at a Portuguese fiesta. After many masses, especially in the 9 - 11 pm time frame there are free coffee and donuts. However, without knowing your specific area, it is hard to direct you to those programs.

          I have an aquaintance who is some sort of Protesant or another who often takes advantage of free food events, though in her circle you need to me more committed to religion than Catholics. However, the chance to 'network' might result in help to finding housing.

          In SF a friend was very knowledgable about free food. It is not as easy as one might suspect.

          If you have access to a phone I would call every church in your area. I would also call as many social service agencies as possible.

          If you give me a specific area, I'd be happy to do some further research for you.

          Outside of the church/social service situation, farmer markets offer a lot of free samples that could help out for at least one free meal. Ditto markets like Trader Joes.

          1. Food, not bombs is supposed to be decent food - http://www.sffnb.org/locations.htm

            Although I'd be inclined to try to find places on the Peninsula, not SF if safety were my biggest concern. I'd also look for free groceries, rather than someone else's cooking - Glide and several other organizations give out groceries once or twice a week.

            I'm curious where you get the idea that SF has "many new homeless". There were only 49 foreclosures in San Franciscso in the last quarter and there's no reason to assume that every one of those property owners became homeless.

            I've lived through two serious recessions where many, many people lost their homes, in my experience only about 10% of them actually became homeless - most moved in with family or friends until they could get back on their feet.

            Interesting study:

            1. Hard Knox Cafe was doing free lunches on tuesday. Might need to check if this is still going on. The food is good, homemade comfort style southern food.

              Hard Knox Cafe
              Phone: 415-648-3770
              Address: 2526 3rd Street
              City: San Francisco

              1. Haight Ashbury Food Program. They use lots of fresh produce. They also run a formal kitchen training program. If you can get in, it would mean you'd cook what you eat.

                1. Keep your eyes open for new real estate developments. Yes, I know you are concerned about homelessness--but if you put your names on interest lists, especially for "upscale" developments, you will get invitations to really swell parties with free cocktails and food. I wouldn't overlook opening shows at art galleries, either. Those tend to be very nice affairs w/ swell finger foods and fine wines. There are also chain hotels that offer free afternoon hors d'oevres (sp) with no checking of room keys. I have also made a meal of cruising thru Costco.
                  And before folks start hollering back about the perceived inability to be freshly bathed or appropriately dressed, let me say that I think it's about resourcefulness. Anyone who thinks to ask Chowhounds for free meals will be resourceful enough to figure out where, when and how to dress appropriately for all sorts of occasions.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: MKatrinaToo

                    All it takes to ask Chowhounds about resources is internet access, which is available free at many public libraries. I did a quick google search of 'good free food San Francisco' and one of the first links that came up was an sfgate article that mentions Chowhound. OTOH, when I do a Google search for 'free showers San Francisco' one link comes up to a privately developed website listing community resources available to the mental health community that is geared to both providers and consumers (though I couldn't find where it talks about showers specifically), and every other link was to things like getting free stuff for baby showers, free shower door on Craig's list, fog free showers, and lots of links to hotels (ie Hilton, Hyatt) advertising free internet along with bragging about their great showers....

                    I agree with rworange that getting hooked up with social services would help if we knew where the OP was located. The website I mentioned *does* have links to lots of other websites of community service agencies, including some on the Peninsula:


                    1. re: susancinsf

                      The free food programs in SF are a horror. It is not as available as one might think and involves lots of traveling around the city. Somewhere in my files I have the sheet which a friend worked on for homeless people. Lots of places do once a month meals but as mentioned involved traveling from one end of the city to another. Once church gave out bologna sandwiches ... two slices of bread and one slice of bologna ... and that only happened once a month. After reading that schedule I never turned down a request for money from anyone asking for food. It is not easy.

                    2. re: MKatrinaToo

                      This is the best reply so far. What great ideas!

                      I posted this query with the knowledge of a great food resource: St. Anthony’s on Middlefield Road, South of the businesses on 5th in Redwood City. What is the problem with knowing where The San Francisco Peninsula is? Please try reading a map! The typically large hot lunch is served 11 am to 1 pm M- Sat. I will write a review when I’ve eaten 4 or 5 of them. I believe this is the only free hot meal that is served in San Mateo County on Sat. St. Anthony’s Dining Room 650. 365-9664

                      Thanks to everyone for your replies. -unsalted

                      1. re: unsalted

                        The benefit is to you. If you are based in Redwood City, then telling you about free food in Santa Clara is not going to help much. The drive or bus ride there would be more expensive than just buying a meal ... not to mention the investment in time.

                        Here are some resources for San Mateo County. How good or bad, can't say

                        Meal sites in the above links include:

                        Bread of Life
                        1852 Bay Road, East Palo Alto, CA 94303
                        (650) 326-9796
                        A free meal Tuesday-Thursday at 4:30, Saturday at 1 and Sunday at 2:30.

                        Café St. Vincent de Paul
                        344 Grand Ave., South San Francisco, CA 94080
                        (650) 589-9039
                        Lunch Monday-Saturday, 10 am-12 noon.

                        Catholic Worker House 650-827-0706 555 West San Bruno Avenue, San Bruno 94066
                        Serves breakfast Tuesday-Friday, 7-9 am.

                        Daly City Emergency Food Pantry, Daly City

                        Grace Covenant Church, So. San Francisco

                        Homeless Help Center 50 North B Street, San Mateo 94401
                        Monday-Friday, 10 am - noon

                        North Peninsula Dining Center
                        6655 Mission Street, Daly City, CA 94014
                        (650) 994-5150
                        Serves a hot meal Monday, Tuesday and Thursday at 5 pm

                        Padua Dining Room
                        St. Anthony's Church
                        3500 Middlefield Rd, Menlo Park, CA 94025
                        (650) 365-9664

                        Salvation Army, San Mateo, Redwood City, Foster City (emergency food vouchers)

                        Samaritan House Dining Center
                        401 N. Humbolt Ave. San Mateo, CA 94401
                        (650) 347-3648
                        Saturday and Sunday only 12-1 pm

                        St. Francis Church
                        1425 Bay Road, East Palo Alto 94303
                        Hot meal served on Monday, 4:30-6 pm.

                        St. Vincent De Paul Society, Redwood City, So. San Francisco

                        St. Vincent de Paul Society
                        (650) 343-4403
                        50 North B Street, San Mateo, CA 94401
                        Free generous bag lunch/beverage available Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. - 12 Noon.

                        Urban Ministry of Palo Alto, Palo Alto

                        Westside Church of Christ
                        603 Monte Diablo Avenue, San Mateo, 94401
                        (650) 347-3648
                        A hot meal available Monday-Friday, 5-6 pm

                        If you can use groceries as well as prepared meals.

                        These two PDF files have some of the above info about food and other useful general info.

                        However if traveling anywhere from South San Francisco to San Jose is what you are looking for ...

                        1. re: unsalted

                          So, I've eaten 4 St. Anthony's, Menlo Park lunches now. These have
                          almost been the quality of food you should expect in an average
                          restaurant. The portions have been large. The chicken has been delicious
                          on two days. I liked the roast beef, and I usually don't eat beef! I
                          haven't had a bad meal there yet. This is probably the safest place to
                          get a free hot meal in San Mateo County. If you are also eating their
                          free deserts (,sliced cakes, pies, and breads, etc,) like I am; this is
                          the only place I've been that has them safely behind glass with a
                          volunteer to serve them. I have always been asked if I would like two of
                          them. Meals are served on a plastic compartmentalized tray. My last tray
                          went down the assembly line, and a green salad of dressed mixed weeds
                          was added next to a great cold multi bean salad. I was served chunks of
                          dark and light, roasted turkey and asked if I would like gravy. There
                          was a bland, under-salted warm pasta with a slight bit of sauce too.
                          Pre-poured cups of milk, juice, or water have always been there behind
                          glass. On a scale of 10; this huge lunch rates a 6. I say if you need a good free hot lunch, this is the best place.

                          1. re: unsalted

                            Thanks for reporting back -- the comments on the food safety aspects are well taken. Any luck finding a decent evening meal yet?

                            Good luck getting back on your feet.

                            1. re: unsalted

                              Yes, thanks. Really interesting. Hope you will report on any other places you try.

                              I was talking to a friend and he said in his starving student days he and a friend would crash large weddings. Since he was living in Marin, he said he ate pretty well.

                        2. Bound Together Books, the anarchist bookstore on Haight at Masonic, has
                          a free xeroxed flyer with a schedule of all the regular SF area soup kitchens.
                          I don't have a copy with me (and I haven't been to the shop in a couple of
                          years, I hope they're still there) but if you're in the area you could pick one