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do you feed the less fortunate?

lschow Jun 14, 2009 10:35 PM

i'm not really sure which board to post this on, but i was curious to know if other hounds give food to the homeless. my sister came to visit last week, and somehow i ended up with about 9 different loaves of bread... long story short, i made a ton of savory bread pudding (bread, spinach, kale, bacon, onion, dry vella jack, bulgarian feta, egg, whole milk - yes, i was trying to clear out the fridge!). i still have some in the freezer (i usually freeze leftovers and eat leftovers during the week for lunch and dinner - i hate wasting and throwing away food) and even took a container to work for co-workers. i ended up filling up a 32 oz yogurt container with bread pudding and giving it to a guy on the corner that i pass by every day on my way to work. i'd much rather give food to someone who will appreciate it than force myself to eat it just because it's there.

so, have you fed or helped out the less fortunate?

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  1. manraysky Jun 14, 2009 11:12 PM

    I used to work at a corporate cafeteria downtown SF. At the end of the day any leftover pre-made sandwiches, muffins, and other pastries were up for grabs. I'd take some to give out the homeless guy passed every day.

    Lately there's been a homeless guy hanging out on the corner near my apartment. He's a nice enough guy, and I've given him an apple or granola bar if I have it left from the lunch I packed for work.

    1. JanPrimus Jun 15, 2009 12:08 AM

      About once a year I will treat a homeless person to some fast food. I sit down and talk with them and try to see what is keeping them on the street or if I can help in any reasonable way. The stories are sometimes sad and make me realize how close a lot of normal every day hard working people are close to that edge of having no place to turn but the street.

      I also have on even more occasions grabbed a certain homeless guy I know here in Detroit and take him to a local dive bar for a few beers. Usually in the winter. He is a guy that will be on the street till they day he dies. He has no urge in working or getting off the streets. He is not a abuser of alcohol or drugs from what I can tell....he is just one lazy SOB that does not like playing the 9-5 game.

      1 Reply
      1. re: JanPrimus
        Pata_Negra Jun 15, 2009 06:16 AM

        lol i do this too! when i'm abroad. the look in their eyes is priceless! i have walked up and down Vancouver's infamous east Hastings street countless times in my youth and i did want to treat someone to some decent fast food but they were all so gone in the head. i handed someone a bag and told them 'enjoy'. i went back recently after a long absence and nothing has changed. more frightening is seeing very young women who have ended up on E. Hastings these days.

        before leaving for my holiday i always look up a certain orphanage or someplace. i fill half my backpack with stuff to give away and when i get there i give it to the children in person. in Pnom Penh i brought stuff to give to children living in a landfill but next time i would treat them to lunch. i still remember the sight of them running towards me/us with their bags of rubbish, and later the smiles on their faces so pure and heartbreaking.

        however it's not easy to pull my heart strings!

      2. Morganna Jun 15, 2009 05:59 AM

        I regularly clear out my pantry and send stuff to the food shelf here. I've also been considering volunteering at the local food shelf as a cook one day a month.

        1. JungMann Jun 15, 2009 07:32 AM

          If I have an excess amount of food such as after a party, I try to give it to someone who would appreciate it, whether it be a homeless person, a service employee who has to work through the holidays or anyone for whom a home-cooked meal would be a luxury. If I don't come across someone, I try to leave the food in a closed container next to a garbage can where someone will find the meal.

          1. h
            HillJ Jun 16, 2009 07:50 AM

            About five years ago my family and I interviewed with the Director of a group home as in house bakers. We bake bread every Wed night. Last year we added baking lessons to their program schedule. Each member of my family takes a turn at instruction.

            I'd encourage everyone to find a way to connect with people on the dark end of a bump in the road. Such straits could be any one of us.

            1. Caralien Jun 16, 2009 08:45 AM

              In SF, we could sometimes give our leftovers from restaurants to some homeless people, although we became prepared to have it rejected (some were vegetarians, others only wanted meat, some liked sushi, others found it gross); one who lived near us, Paul, we'd give clothing and tins of food to when we saw him. In college, there was a woman in NY I'd give apples to en route to class (although she preferred cigarettes).

              When possible, I've volunteered at soup kitchens and food banks.

              During the holidays, there's usually a drive somewhere for extra turkeys.

              It's harder to find places which will take home-prepared foods (or gently used clothing), as the trend has been to have only new, packaged items, preferably with tags attached. I do understand that non-perishable foods are best regarding shelf life, transport, distribution, etc.

              There's a (refreshingly) good article from the NYT regarding residential fruit picking
              "Supporters of this movement hold two basic principles. One, it’s a shame to let fruit go to waste. And two, neighborhood fruit tastes best when it’s free.":
              http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/10/dining/10Fruit.html
              http://neighborhoodfruit.com/
              http://veggietrader.com/

              If you're in a major city (NY, SF, Chicago, DC, Seattle, Minneapolis/St. Paul), http://www.Onebrick.org has events a few times a week, with little to no committment.

              10 Replies
              1. re: Caralien
                g
                gryphonskeeper Jun 25, 2009 06:33 PM

                a homeless person rejecting food because it was not up to their standards? are you SERIOUS?
                WOW...

                1. re: gryphonskeeper
                  Caralien Jun 25, 2009 06:47 PM

                  I wish this was a joke, but it happened enough times in SF.

                  1. re: Caralien
                    g
                    gryphonskeeper Jun 25, 2009 06:57 PM

                    cara, I have seen REAL homelessness and poverty, but it was not in America, It was in Rome, and In Mexico and South America. People living in compete poverty, willing to eat out of hotel garbage cans. Those are the people I helped. I often gave away all of my extra pesos, or euros to those people when I was going home, and always gave them the "doggy bags" from any meal we did not finish. This is why many people view Americans as arrogant across the globe, even our homeless are picky.

                    1. re: gryphonskeeper
                      Caralien Jun 25, 2009 07:10 PM

                      Not all homeless are picky even in the US! Some need and appreciate the food or assistance, and others won't. There are so many factors at play that it's necessary not to become numb. Do what you can, expect rejection or reluctance, but simply try to be kind. The times when our food was rejected (and we weren't heading directly home), I would leave the containers next to a trash bin.

                      1. re: gryphonskeeper
                        s
                        small h Jun 28, 2009 11:49 AM

                        Also note that some homeless people have mental health issues. It's unfair to attribute their rejection of food to "arrogance." There may be other factors at work.

                        1. re: small h
                          f
                          fern Jun 29, 2009 09:08 PM

                          Bingo.

                    2. re: gryphonskeeper
                      alanbarnes Jun 25, 2009 07:30 PM

                      Just because somebody doesn't have a fixed address doesn't mean they have to give up their moral convictions. I used to volunteer at a homeless shelter where I managed the kitchen (and eventually the shelter). We did our best to accommodate folks who were vegans or vegetarians, or kept kosher, or wanted halal food.

                      That's not to pass judgment on those who choose to make their food standards more flexible when faced with the harsh realities of keeping body and soul together. My favorite example was an eccentric Hindu who resisted eating beef. He'd eventually chow down on a burger, but not before exclaiming "holy cow"!

                      Yes, some folks will eat anything. Some start with low standards, others start with high standards that are eroded by hunger. But food choices are ultimately a personal decision. And even the homeless deserve the dignity to make that choice.

                      1. re: alanbarnes
                        g
                        gryphonskeeper Jun 25, 2009 07:57 PM

                        alan, I grew up dirt poor.

                        dignity is one thing, hunger is another. I have seen extremes and what I am saying is, this is why we are viewed as arrogant. They have extreme starvation, we don't.

                        1. re: gryphonskeeper
                          alanbarnes Jun 25, 2009 08:16 PM

                          Plenty of people here in the US face starvation. But homelessness and starvation aren't the same thing. That's all I'm saying.

                          1. re: alanbarnes
                            g
                            gryphonskeeper Jun 26, 2009 11:16 AM

                            I hear ya, and you are absolutely right.

                  2. Gio Jun 16, 2009 08:54 AM

                    In a town close by there is a soup kitchen called My Brother's Keeper. When I was the religious ed. director of a parish in my town we would take teens preparing for Confirmation to that kitchen to prepare then serve the evening meal to the crowd of folks who would arrive. Our quite privileged young people had their eyes opened to the realities of life and many continued to help out when the program was over.

                    1. s
                      Sal Vanilla Jun 16, 2009 08:56 AM

                      We have a huge garden and orchard at my house. All excess (beyond family and friends) goes to our food bank. We also have a big group of fruit tree gleaners in my town. I participate in that. I do not do premade things anymore, but I love the idea of it. Groups won't take it and I think I would get cranky if I offered it up and they ditched it or refused it. I also do not donate ANY food to our local shelter anymore. I bought giant bags of rice, beans and powdered milk for them and they were so rude and put out when I delivered it that I swore never to do it again. But the food bank - oh how I adore those people.

                      1. Bill Hunt Jun 18, 2009 10:17 PM

                        Other than for certain smaller "food drives," we do not. OTOH, we donate many thousands of dollars to various charities. Many of these do have food programs. So, indirectly, yes.

                        As an aside, my wife gives ~$25M/year in healthcare for the uninsured. Part of that is for their food (and usually their families), while in the hospital. Again, indirect.

                        Hunt

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Bill Hunt
                          alkapal Jun 18, 2009 10:52 PM

                          bill, your wife gives $25 million a year to "healthcare for the uninsured"? wow, now i understand how you can be a fine wine connoisseur and travel the world. i'm happy for you, and i always enjoy your posts.

                          1. re: alkapal
                            Bill Hunt Jun 19, 2009 09:47 PM

                            Now, remember that this is through her hospital. It is not coming directly out of my "wine budget," though there is impact. Actually, I'll go without to allow her to do this. I have more than enough for the two of us, and a handful of our rowdy wino friends. She's heavily focused on providing healthcare, and does not care what it takes.

                            Between you and me, the US President has called upon the wrong folk for any sort of national healthcare plan. It is being designed by theoriticians and not by the folk who actually administer it daily. [end of rant, and back to our regularly scheduled program]

                            Now, back to feeding the homeless. She also funds several charities just for that purpose. Most are local, or regional, but not all. Her cafeteria is part of a major local foodbank. They also do open tables for nearby residents, who are down on their luck. Still, this is at an institutional level. Personally, we probably only contribute to St. Mary's Foodbank directly (and a few food drives), though much of our United Way contributions do go to similar.

                            I will say that the majority of the personal $'s go to healthcare foundations, but that is necessary too, just not food-oriented directly.

                            Hunt

                          2. re: Bill Hunt
                            b
                            Bite Me Jun 19, 2009 10:33 PM

                            I love your wife!

                          3. waytob Jun 19, 2009 05:16 AM

                            Here in Kenya, its pretty much become standard practice to pack up any and all leftovers. These are either given to the numerous street kids you'll see at junctions, or - more commonly - to the 'askari' who opens your gate for you. Alot more meals are eaten family style here, so there will generally be a good mix.

                            Can get humerous though, when your guard asks you for a particular cuisine when you're on your way out.

                            On the whole here, with the level of poverty, numerous disasters due to weather and heavy taxation, any food leftover is better off given to the multitudes of needy people out there.

                            And in our case, I have yet to have had an offer rejected becasue the person was vegetarian....people aren't fussy about what they eat when they are starving

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: waytob
                              Bill Hunt Jun 19, 2009 09:50 PM

                              Interesting comment. Recently, my wife was leaving a high-end restaurant after a lunch. She had a "doggie box," and spotted an older gentleman sitting near the corner with a sign. Without hesitation, she handed him the leftovers, and he was astounded by this gesture. Had not thought of that, until I saw your post. Yes, it was a very tiny gesture, but someone appreciated it.

                              Thanks,

                              Hunt

                              1. re: Bill Hunt
                                hyacinthgirl Jun 22, 2009 04:42 PM

                                I do that whenever the opportunity presents.
                                Also, being in a city, there are often many homeless people near the grocery stores I frequent. Before I go in, I tell them I don't have any cash, but will be buying my groceries with credit card and what can I get them that they would like?
                                They usually are a bit surprised that someone is giving them a choice, but they also usually get pretty excited to pick out their own meals.
                                I actually took one woman in with me and had her pick out some things she'd like.
                                She told me how that was the most difficult part for her about her current situation, she couldn't afford to get sick, but she also felt she couldn't afford to eat healthy.

                                1. re: hyacinthgirl
                                  Bill Hunt Jun 22, 2009 08:44 PM

                                  You have shared, and that is a wonderful thing!

                                  Thanks for sharing,

                                  Hunt

                                  1. re: Bill Hunt
                                    waytob Jun 23, 2009 06:00 AM

                                    Not a lot of walking gets done here, and lots of security risks attached to stopping on the side of the road too. But I feel that if every once in a while someone just stops to think if what they are throwing away would be useful for someone else, we'd see a whole better world out there.
                                    I wouldn't quite do what hyacinth girl did (security again), but agree that sometimes when walking into a store, buying an extra pint of milk, or a loaf of bread, won't bust your budget but can make the difference of a square meal for someone else.
                                    This includes things like fruit thats gone softer or riper than you like it, leftoevers that you really cant face eating 3 days in a row, and an overabundant garden.
                                    Some pretty nice people hanging out here, its good stuff to read

                                    1. re: waytob
                                      Bill Hunt Jun 23, 2009 07:16 PM

                                      Very good points, and at several levels. When one CAN, I'd like to think that they WILL.

                                      Appreciated,

                                      Hunt

                                  2. re: hyacinthgirl
                                    s
                                    Sal Vanilla Jun 23, 2009 09:12 PM

                                    That, Hyacinthgirl, is a good thing you did. My mom did that when I was a kid and it stuck with me. You make the world a better place by doing things like that!

                                    1. re: Sal Vanilla
                                      hyacinthgirl Jun 25, 2009 12:52 PM

                                      Wow thank you. Really, your words made me feel very good. I appreciate it

                              2. j
                                jeanmarieok Jun 19, 2009 05:26 AM

                                I cook every month for a group of homeless people that our church feeds. Simple casseroles (spanish rice, chicken cobbler) or chili, usually. And dessert. And when I travel for work, I always get my leftovers to go, and get a fork, and either give them directly to a homeless person, or leave it on top of the trash can. Seems to work pretty well. Now I've got my whole team in on it.

                                1. b
                                  Bite Me Jun 19, 2009 10:32 PM

                                  Yes, we feed and clothe the less fortunatue. I only wish we could do more. I always thought that we were the wealthiest state (California) and country in the world. How naive I was.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: Bite Me
                                    512window Jun 20, 2009 11:52 AM

                                    I'm in CA also. Before this year, I always donated extra produce from my garden to a shelter. This year, we're all under quarantine for the brown apple moth and can't even give fruit to our neighbors. The local newspaper used to sponsor a "plant a row" for the shelter program for local gardeners. It was very successful, but again this year, not so good.

                                    Plus, we're supposed to be reducing water use so planting a bigger garden isn't a good idea anyway.

                                    I always have money donated from my paycheck directly to the Food Bank. It's an easy and painless way to help those in your community in need. A lot people use the bank who aren't the homeless unfortunates on the street.

                                    And, as a Seinfeld nut, no one else remembers Kramer trying to get his tupperware back from the homeless guy?

                                    1. re: 512window
                                      b
                                      Bite Me Jun 20, 2009 02:29 PM

                                      I love the water rationing. we have been self-rationing for years - we use a fraction of what most people would use for the # of people we have and yet we just got a notice that we are supposed to cut by 15% or face a monetary fine. They don't tell you how to figure out what 15% would be - does it mean five less flushes per day? They should tell each household what it means for that household based on their usage. So, yes, the gardens suffer tremendously. I have seen most Seinfeld episodes but that one I must have missed. Sounds hiliarous.

                                      1. re: Bite Me
                                        Bill Hunt Jun 22, 2009 08:48 PM

                                        Though getting very off-topic and also non-CH, many of the rationing programs can be double-edged swords. Back in CO, everyone was told to ration both water and electricity. They did a good job of this. So good, in fact, that both providers had to raise their rates, as consumption was way down.

                                        Just an observation from the past,

                                        Hunt

                                        1. re: Bite Me
                                          512window Jun 29, 2009 09:02 PM

                                          It's The Beard - Elaine tries to convince a gay guy to switch teams.

                                    2. o
                                      ola Jun 20, 2009 02:03 PM

                                      We just had a canned food drive at our Gallery netting 250 lbs of food for the local food bank. It is a painless way to donate - you call the food bank, they deliver a barrel and you call them for pick-up each time the barrel gets filled. If every small business would do so...

                                      1. m
                                        mordacity Jun 20, 2009 08:44 PM

                                        I've gotten cynical about this. A few months ago I was on my way home from a dinner party laden with delicious leftovers, and passed by a homeless guy with a sign reading "Need Food", who asked for money. I offered him my Moroccan-spiced lamb and roasted butternut squash, and he looked at me like I was an alien. These days I donate to my local food bank and keep my leftovers to myself.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: mordacity
                                          hyacinthgirl Jun 22, 2009 04:44 PM

                                          I've had that happen too. I've also had people tell me no, when I offered them any food, and instead did I have money.
                                          But don't let that make you cynical. For every person that turns down food, there's someone else who would be grateful for it. There's no harm to you in offering : )

                                          1. re: mordacity
                                            Bill Hunt Jun 22, 2009 08:56 PM

                                            In life, one is likely to encounter those in need, and also scammers. One takes their chances.

                                            Going back some decades, there was a piece on a man, who sat in the NYC financial district with signage to the effect that he was destitute and in need of food, and money for his family. He was followed, and had a towncar pick him up each day, where he was driven to very nice home on Long Island. The reporter found that he was grossing over $1M/year (remember some time ago), and of course, he had no taxes, etc., so this was close to his net, as well.

                                            There's a bad apple in every barrel.

                                            One takes their chances, and can only hope for the best.

                                            Hunt

                                          2. c oliver Jun 21, 2009 02:56 PM

                                            We just took one of homes and turned it into a rental. That meant combining two very well (over) stocked pantries. When we get back from our big East Coast trip, I'll be making a trip to the local food bank.

                                            When we're visiting SF, we frequently have leftovers from dinner. When walking home one time, there was a homeless man bedding down for the night in a doorway. He was very happy to have that leftover Chinese food.

                                            But never forget that money is the best thing we can give. Giving the food itself makes US feel warm and fuzzy but giving money (to an organization, not an individual) allows them to get what they actually want and need rather than just what we're trying to get rid of. (I'm guilty of that.)

                                            6 Replies
                                            1. re: c oliver
                                              waytob Jun 23, 2009 06:09 AM

                                              On the issue of giving money I can't fully agree based on experience in Kenya. Money has ways of disappearing very quickly over here. During a recent food drive (30% of our population was starving due to the effects of rain shortages and crop disease), organisations began by asking for money - a very poor reponse.
                                              This then changed to a request for specific items, and people were asked to drop off a variety of foods that would sustain the families. Within 2 weeks the first train took off to feed the starving. Sometimes its better to give what is needed.
                                              In our case people either gave, or bought extra at supermarkets and then dropped off into communal bins at the entrances - sugar, salt, rice, maize flour, wheat flour, cooking oil, water purifiers, dried grains and lentils etc.

                                              1. re: waytob
                                                h
                                                HillJ Jun 23, 2009 07:00 AM

                                                And, it can hinder support at the local level too. Financial contributions made directly to a charity that feeds the homeless and working poor means a percentage did not go to a 3rd party rep taking a processing fee. Those fees add up quickly and often delay disbursement. When I attend charitable events, the people actually working for the food bank, soup kitchen, outreach hub state time & time again that their doors are open and they welcome direct support most.

                                                1. re: HillJ
                                                  lulubelle Jun 26, 2009 12:06 PM

                                                  http://www.charitynavigator.org/ and other sites can tell you how much of your money is actually going towards the charity work and how much is going towards administration.

                                                  1. re: lulubelle
                                                    h
                                                    HillJ Jun 26, 2009 12:11 PM

                                                    lulu, that information is supplied by the charities off their 990's and reprinted on CNav. Been there, done that.

                                                    1. re: HillJ
                                                      lulubelle Jun 26, 2009 12:32 PM

                                                      I know it's not as good as giving directly to the people in need, but not everyone has that option. I have gone into the villages of Bangladesh delivering rice and clothing after a cyclone, but that's not possible for most people.

                                                      1. re: lulubelle
                                                        h
                                                        HillJ Jun 26, 2009 01:51 PM

                                                        Kudos to you lulub. I won't argue your point but we can all do what we can proactively. If I want to inquire about the charity's admin arm I make an appt with their Board of Trustees or ask for their end of the year report and even a few references. A charity should be more than able to disclose their budgetary needs. All of the npo's we've supported have.

                                            2. o
                                              OneJayneDoe Jun 23, 2009 08:50 AM

                                              Every time my husband does the grocery shopping he makes a hefty donation to Food For All.
                                              http://www.foodforall.org

                                              1. kchurchill5 Jun 25, 2009 07:42 PM

                                                I donate and make soups or dishes to feed the homeless. Salvation army every other month. I made tons of broccoli soup for the army a couple of months ago. My friend gave me many heads of broccoli so it was perfect. I asked a local grocer who pitched in with cream and broth so other than onions and a few spices it was free other than my time. This month, well July, sorry I am making pasta. Two sauces a pesto with chicken and a bacon carbonara. The chicken and bacon already donated and the cream and cheese from another store so just the pasta and some herbs for me. I got a local farmer to add in some romaine and some publix caesar dressing and dinner for some 100 plus. It is amazing how just a few phone calls and a few requests go a long ways. I wasn't asking for a fortune, just a bit, and most places will definitely help out, you just need to ask. I will pick it all up and presto. I have to buy the tins but salad and pasta for 100. A morning of cooking and a day to serve. That is a great feeling. I wouldn't give it up for anything.

                                                1. lulubelle Jun 26, 2009 11:55 AM

                                                  I live in one of the poorest countries in the world. I could empty out my wallet every day for the rest of my life and not make a dent. We buy individual boxes of milk and pass them out to the kids who beg at our car windows. I sponsor a child at a local school for street children, they get 6 hot meals a week in addition to an education. I bring leftovers down to the guards at my building, or let my maid take them home to her family.

                                                  My employer sponsors rice drives, and we re all very active in the community, but honestly, I don't think the battle will ever be won, and it is very disheartening to be here sometimes.

                                                  6 Replies
                                                  1. re: lulubelle
                                                    kchurchill5 Jun 26, 2009 12:09 PM

                                                    I totally agree. It is very hard when I go to the salvation army to give food that I made and donated and then see someone that was at the publix nearby buying beer with what money he had. But I have to remember those that really appreciate it, but it hard to believe those that won't get a job just because they don't want it. There is a warehouse nearby hiring night shift labor, there isn't many job opportunities but there are some out there.

                                                    I'm torn but I still donate.

                                                    1. re: kchurchill5
                                                      Morganna Jun 27, 2009 04:29 AM

                                                      I think it's important to be really careful about the assumption "aren't getting a job because they don't want it." Warehouse work is -hard- work. There are plenty of people who simply wouldn't be physically able to do it.

                                                      1. re: kchurchill5
                                                        lulubelle Jun 27, 2009 11:38 PM

                                                        When I said it was disheartening, it's not because I think people should be doing more to help themselves, I said it because I live in a country of tremendous poverty (the average YEARLY wage is something like 380 dollars) and there seems to be no way to bring the people out of poverty and hunger.

                                                        1. re: lulubelle
                                                          c oliver Jun 28, 2009 04:53 AM

                                                          Yes, I think comparing the poor where you live to those in Sarasota, FL, (or really anywhere in the US) is ludicrous. Few if any people in the US starve to death. It's beyond apples and oranges (which they can't get anyway). And there's no end in sight. It's a world tragedy.

                                                        2. re: kchurchill5
                                                          alanbarnes Jun 28, 2009 09:28 AM

                                                          There may be a few free spirits out there who "won't get a job just because they don't want it." But those people are very much in the minority, even in the homeless community. Most homeless people don't want to be homeless. They just don't have a choice.

                                                          People who have the ability to hold down a job tend not to stay homeless for long. A typical example would be the guy who sustains an acute injury that precludes him from working for a while, and ends up getting evicted from his apartment. You tend to see that guy picking up shifts as a day laborer, then getting a steady job, then finding an apartment. He doesn't want to be homeless, and he has the wherewithal to do something about it.

                                                          The chronically homeless tend to be not just unemployed, but unemployable. Some are physically disabled, but the vast majority have either substance abuse problems, serious mental disabilities, or both. Even when jobs were abundant, these folks couldn't hold down steady work. Now that unemployment is approaching double digits nationally, the notion that they could work if they wanted to is simply absurd.

                                                          Yes, it's disheartening to see people who don't have a place to stay spending their last few dollars on beer (or crack or heroin or whatever). But usually the problem isn't bad choices, it's addiction. These folks are wrestling with demons that are daunting by any measure, and they're doing it in an environment where the love and support of family and community members is hard to come by. You wish they'd behave more responsibly. So do I. But it's a fair bet that their own desire to change their self-destructive behavior is much more urgent than either of ours; it's just a very, very hard thing to do.

                                                          Catherine correctly notes that starvation is rare in the US. As a matter of fact, the average American poor person's circumstances would constititute a pretty good middle-class lifestyle in the developing world. 97% of Americans have enough to eat, and only 0.5% report that they often don't have enough food.

                                                          As far as I'm concerned this is a good thing. We're a rich and generous country, and we do a lot to take care of our less fortunate citizens. But we can do better. Hunger in America is rare, but it's real. Don't let the unattractive face of extreme poverty deter you from trying to do something about it.

                                                          1. re: alanbarnes
                                                            c oliver Jun 28, 2009 11:25 AM

                                                            I can always count on you to say it right. We must do more. Always. And not judge.

                                                      2. m
                                                        mpjmph Jun 26, 2009 12:46 PM

                                                        I volunteer 2-3 times a month at a regional food bank. They are incredibly well organized, one of the largest food banks in the US. I recently found out that the food bank donation boxes for sale at some grocery stores in my area (shoe box sized filled with non-perishables, sold for $5 and delivered to the food bank) are used when people walk into the food bank off the street. In general the food bank distributes food to shelters, churches, etc who distribute to those in need; but the warehouse I volunteer at is in a low-income residential area and people occasionally walk in looking for food. When that happens they are given 1 box of food per family member and the food bank coordinator helps set them up with the appropriate social/charitable services.

                                                        1. a
                                                          adrienne156 Jun 26, 2009 03:08 PM

                                                          The exit I use to get to work has a rotation of people that sit on the corner and most mornings, I see the same guy. Sometimes he has his dog, Max, with him but lately Max hasn't been there. Last time I saw Max, I mentioned to the guy that he looked a little tired, so maybe Max has passed on. I would give the guy a dollar here or there until I noticed him drinking Sparks and decided to bring him food instead. I'll make him a sandwich if I've had the foresite to make myself one, give him whatever I'd grabbed for breakfast while running out the door (granola bar, string cheese)... I think I even have a can of dog food rolling around in my trunk for Max.

                                                          I love leftovers, so usually hold onto them, but if I'm going somewhere afterwards I will usually put them on top of a garbage can with a little note scribbled something along the lines of "Please Eat Me" with the date and the time. My friends think I'm nuts, but I don't see the harm in being thoughtful.

                                                          1. maplesugar Jun 28, 2009 02:11 PM

                                                            I'm sure I've posted this on another food bank thread... Every Monday night for the past few years I've volunteered putting together hampers at our local food bank... In the past few months we've seen 40% more clients than we did this time last year. Many clients are ones with two jobs, trying to make ends meet, and many are families with young children. I volunteer because if I were in their situation I'd like there to be a place I could get help.

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                                                              FrankD Oct 16, 2009 06:43 PM

                                                              I was in a hospital for three weeks last year. After a while, I was moved to a residential floor, where they brought the six of us so much food, we could never eat it - sandwiches, milk, juice, fresh fruit. For the two Sundays I was there, I would gather up all the extra food from the week, and go out to the nearby park, where many street people seemed to congregate.

                                                              I was as nice as I could be, but I was astonished that very few of them would accept the free food - if they did, they took a couple of sandwiches, maybe a milk or juice, but that was it. Both times I ended up with a couple of bags of perfectly fine food. Both times I ended up flagging down a police car, and asking them if they knew where people who could use it might be. The cops took it both times, said "Thanks", and said they knew exactly where to take it. I hope it helped, but it surprised me that people wouldn't accept it directly.

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                                                                foodpoisoned Oct 17, 2009 07:45 AM

                                                                Wow...a lot of sweet stories here, but in my experience they don't even want it. The sad truth is that pretty much all of the chronically homeless in America (and probably all over the world) are addicts, mentally ill, or both...and even if food isn't the farthest thing from their minds, they usually have other priorities when they're trying to hustle up money for "food". So, yes, I offer food, but it's usually rejected. The last time was actually Thursday morning - some guy begging outside of McDonald's so I offered to buy him breakfast and ended up having to listen to some bullshit story about how he couldn't eat until he got his medication, so he just really needed cash.

                                                                *sigh* I think I'll just give up and continue to do what I've always been more likely to do (hand out the phone number to a recovery house if they want it and donate to adult literacy and job training programs).

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: foodpoisoned
                                                                  Kajikit Oct 17, 2009 05:02 PM

                                                                  When I meet a person begging, I ask them if they want some food and if the answer is yes, I go and buy them something... I haven't ever had someone turn me down flat, so I assume that I'm filling a genuine need. It never hurts to ask...

                                                                2. s
                                                                  sueatmo Oct 17, 2009 03:35 PM

                                                                  The title of this post asks, "do you feed the less fortunate?" But the text references giving to the homeless. There are many ways to feed the less fortunate. I work in a food pantry that distributes grocery and personal care items to "clients" monthly. All of the distributed food is either donated by individuals or grocers or bought with donated funds. The entire charity is handled by volunteers except for 3 full-time employees. Practically every day I work, I see people walk in to donate. Needles to say they are outnumbered by those seeking help. No prepared food is distributed.

                                                                  There are food pantries everywhere and you might be surprised to know the extent of the poverty in your area, even if it is a prosperous area. If your community has one, you can donate or volunteer. There are also other kinds of feeding charities. My son worked for a time in a free breakfast house. Probably the easiest way to feed the less fortunate is to donate food or money during a canned good drive. I think making a monetary donation to a pantry in your community is the best way to donate, though.

                                                                  Think about it. Would you want to eat food a stranger gives you? You wouldn't know the source of the food. You don't know the stranger's intentions. A homeless person can be preyed upon by so many people. It is understandable he/she might not want to eat your food.

                                                                  And by the way, many, many food service workers eke out an existence below the poverty line.

                                                                  1. Vetter Oct 17, 2009 08:41 PM

                                                                    I do the food bank thing whenever there is a local drive, but the thing I do more often is get folks a hot drink. I'm in NW Washington and the local homeless folks must spend a lot of the fall and winter cold and wet. A hot drink seems appreciated and it's something I can easily do without buying someone's alcohol. I'll just ask if someone would like a hot chocolate or coffee, and how do they take it, and pop into the store and get it.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: Vetter
                                                                      s
                                                                      sueatmo Oct 19, 2009 10:52 AM

                                                                      I think this is very nice, a good idea for when you encounter a homeless person.

                                                                      I don't want to be too pedantic, but sayin "I do the food bank thing" sort of trivializes the gift you make. If you give to a local food bank, you contribute to its work. The food bank or pantry is on the cutting edge of alleviating hunger, and it can do more than an individual can. If you are giving to it, you bless others and yourself.

                                                                    2. b
                                                                      bigfellow Oct 19, 2009 12:52 PM

                                                                      Once a month I go down to a local shelter with a group of friends in the restaurant/food industry. We provide the food and cook a meal for them. They are always very greatful. A couple of weeks ago, we had some extra chocolate and cream. So I made chocolate mousse for 300. One man asked what it was as he had never tasted anything like it as he thanked us. In Montreal we get some people from the North who get stranded here due to circumstances.
                                                                      Here in Montreal the shelters really depend on local donations. The shelter we go to most often depends on local hotels and restaurants to provide enough leftover food for 2 to 3 meals a week.
                                                                      I'd urge anyone with extra food to drop it off at your local shelter.

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