Playing With My Food ~
A journal about food, thought, travel, and life; by Chef & Raconteur Chaz French.

Blog Action Day Post – Poverty

I lived in Los Angeles from 1987 until 2002, for much of that time I was involved with a group called “Under The Bridges And On The Streets” their mission was and is to bring food to the homeless where they live.

It went like this, one Saturday a month a group of us would gather at a home in West Hollywood. This home served as our base of operations, it is also an Ashram. We’d start coming in around 8am and set up the tables in the backyard, creating an assembly line in one part of the yard. People would cut rolls, someone would butter them, put meat and cheese on them, pass them down the line… They’d get wrapped and bagged. Then into each bag went napkins, condiments, a brownie, a banana, and any extras we happened to get donated like granola, or another snack.

The bagged lunches would be counted and sorted and placed into cars, along with cases and cases of bottled water, and boxes of feminine hygiene products, and other personal hygiene items (whatever we could get donated).

While all this was going on, in another part of the yard donated clothing was being separated and boxed and also loaded into cars.

When all was done and the cars were loaded, we’d climb in and split off into different groups, I’d most often go with the group that covered Silver Lake, Echo Park & Downtown Los Angeles, we drove to the homeless encampments, the shanty towns (Yes, in Los Angeles, in the USA, shanty towns). Parks, anywhere we could find the homeless we would get out of the car (in twos) and personally hand out meals, talk to people, engage them and treat them like the human beings they are. Sometime people wouldn’t want food, but they’d ask for an extra bottle of water, occasionally someone would have a pet that needed food, and we usually had something for them too.

One of the most moving moments that I’d ever experienced was seeing a woman nearly in tears because we had a supply of feminine hygiene items, and it was her time of the month.

The gratitude is still too much to think about without tearing up. Seeing a young man no older than I was at the time, living under a freeway overpass. So many people that I met and talked to, their faces burned into my mind still today.

Under The Bridges And On The Streets makes upwards of 800 meals on those Saturdays, the rest of the month people work in smaller groups and do what they can. There’d be times when we’d have a potluck and afterward my friend Devi & I packed up some meals and hit a couple of places in Hollywood as she was driving me home.

But it doesn’t matter if it’s one meal or 800, you can make a difference, you can take the time to reach out and just treat another person with respect and dignity and offer them a meal, take the time to find out what they need. You can reach out to someone in extreme poverty, right here at home, in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, any major city, most small cities, pretty much anywhere you are there are people who are homeless and hungry, there are people who are on the verge of losing their homes and they’re hungry, and you can make a difference, by simply feeding another person.

If you live in Los Angeles, and wish to volunteer you can call 310-657-7098 or if you wish to donate money to Under The Bridges you can send a donation to “Attention Laxman Das” – 391 N. Huntley Drive, West Hollywood, CA 90048. You can tell them you heard about them from me.

In NYC The Bowery Mission needs your help to feed people.

In YOUR city there are organizations to feed people, if you don’t have money, give your time.