Sunday, July 3, 2011

People Feeding People

When people think of the food culture, they tend to think of top notch restaurants; artisan produced cheese, beer, and wine; gourmet meals, and rich desserts. Thus, food blogs are filled with passages such as,"The base of the dish was seasoned spaetzle (tiny German dumplings) cooked with dried cherries and pine nuts. Resting atop of the savory mélange of flavors was a deliciously fried pork cutlet topped by a fried egg. When the yoke broke and ran down through the other parts of the dish, it added a welcome richness to the already savory meal."

Don't get me wrong, I love those aspects of the food culture. Just the other night, I had some wonderful steamed crab legs, a peppercorn encrusted steak, and a chocolate dessert which was probably the caloric equivalent of three days worth of food. Yet, I can't help but think the food culture is about more than the fun stuff. From time to time, the media publishes/broadcasts stories of people feeding people and using food to make the world a better place. Recently, three such stories have caught my attention.

  • After fighting an intense blaze in Four Corners, Washington for more than six hours, the fire chief called the proprietor of Mama Passarelli's Dinner House, Ginger "Mama" Passarelli, and asked for some soup for his men, which were still on the line. That initial request sparked the formation of The Soup Ladies, an organization of 30 volunteers who can feed first responders on a variety of emergencies, within an hour of being called to the scene. If her routine generosity wasn't amazing enough, Mama recently took her mobile soup kitchen to Joplin to feed survivors of the devastating floods. During her week long stay, Mama estimates she served between 600 & 700 meals per day to flood victims. Upon her return, she saw I'd posted a link to a news story about her on my Facebook page, and replied, " is all about feeding people. Back from Joplin and it was amazing!

  • Another prime example of people trying to improve the world through food is the internet based program Random Acts of Pizza: Restoring Faith in Humanity, One Slice at a Time. In a nutshell, people read hard luck stories, which have been posted to RAOP's website, and pay to have a pizza sent to the subject of one of the stories. The idea is that the gift of a pizza will pick up the recipient's spirits, giving them a second wind of sorts. Random Acts of Pizza has sent pizzas to unemployed people, people with massive medical debt, widowed mothers, and many others who struggle with day to day hardships. Again, the goal isn't to solve anyone's problems, but to facilitate gestures of kindness and provide brief respites from the drudgery of hard times.

  • Even corporate America is getting into the compassion through food field. Kraft Foods has recently purchased new refrigerated trucks for food banks in Columbia, Mo.; Fredericksburg, Va.; Fort Pierce, Fla.; Indianapolis, Ind.; Lafayette, Ind.; Orlando, Fla.; Salt Lake City; San Diego; Spokane, Wash.; and Springfield, Ohio, which will be used as mobile food pantries. The ten new trucks increase the size of the program to 25 food distributing vehicles. The fleet makes donated food accessible to a portion of the population who are unable to visit urban food banks due to age, disability, lack of transportation, etc... In it's third year, Kraft's fleet of mobile pantries has provided more than 33 million pounds of food to hungry people, and over the next three years they plan to distribute 50 million pounds of food to the needy.

    While these are inspiring examples of epicurean beneficence, one shouldn't walk away with the impression they're the only examples of such culinary generosity out there. Thousands of Meals on Wheels volunteers collectively feed tens of thousands of elderly shut-ins across the country each week. Since 1923, the Portland Police Bureau's Sunshine Division has been providing emergency food to Portland families and individuals in need. Plus, I can't begin to figure out how many people donate their time to man soup kitchen's & bread lines to feed the homeless members of our society.

    These, and other, examples of people feeding people are, or should be, at the core of the food culture. Food which nourishes the soul, as well as the body, is definitely food worth celebrating.
    Below are links to food based charities you can donate to.

    | The Soup Ladies | Random Acts Of Pizza | Meals On Wheels | Loaves & Fishes |
    | Portland's Sunshine Division |

    1. Hey James,
      Love this article. I use to volunteer with Meals on Wheels. What a great organization. :)

    2. Good for you hun, that's what it's all about. :->