Innovative Solutions from Creative Organizations
On April 18, Project Homeless Connect hosted a panel of experts and creative thinkers from a range of organizations that work to feed people. Such a simple concept can be quite complex but the payoff of helping those in need is large and can have wide-ranging effects. At issue is the idea of “food security” which Karen Gruneisen of the San Francisco Food Security Task Force defined as having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious, and culturally appropriate food.
To address the issue of food insecurity, which is especially hard on the homeless as it puts additional strain on their physical and mental health, the individuals on our panel have put their skills and tireless dedication to trying out innovative ideas and seeing what works, and what doesn’t.
Charles Sommer of St. Anthony’s told of their success in creating a dignified dining room for their guests and how a safe, beautiful place can help people who may be lacking those spaces otherwise. This model has worked for a long time and contributed to a sterling reputation for St. Anthony’s that they hope to extend by brainstorming ways to address the food needs of those who are not able to visit the dining room.
Similarly successful, long-running, and consistent, Curry Without Worry has offered hot, vegan meals in the Civic Center every week for 11 years. The founder, Shrawan Nepali, was trying to find a way to address the disparities he was surprised to see in San Francisco that reminded him of growing up in Nepal. An optimistic concept, they offer food to anybody, no questions asked, which brings some community members and local workers to join as well. This helps create a feeling of community, shared spaces between hungry people no matter their economic status.
Maen Mahfoud and Hooman Yavi of Re-Plate, meanwhile, have started a nimble food re-distribution organization that “bridges the gap” between extra food at corporate offices and tech companies and nonprofits that can distribute that food to those in need. They have carried a spirit of innovation by trying out ideas and evolving quickly which led to a successful framework in place that they can expand on. They even shared some challenges in that not all ideas end up being feasible; for instance, a community refrigerator that had some logistical issues but helped them continue to brainstorm around creative ways to get food to people at all times of day.
A great example of being agile and quickly able to adapt to changing circumstances, Jimmy Ryan of the Burrito Project, detailed how a day or two before over 300 burritos are made, volunteers will bike around the city to see where people are staying so they can focus their efforts and send burritos to the most impacted areas. It’s a real-time crowdsourced way of bringing food to people.
Thank you to everyone who came out to learn more about this vital issue and contribute to the conversation around how to address food insecurity, and a huge thank you to our knowledgeable panelists who shared a wealth of information and resources with everyone in attendance. For more info about these amazing organizations please visit the links below:
Links & Resources
San Francisco Food Security Task Force – Learn more about the task force and get information on how to attend public meetings
St. Anthony’s – Meals are offered every day 10:00 – 11:45 AM (families with children, seniors) and 11:30 AM – 1:30 PM (all are welcome). Learn more about St. Anthony’s and read the results of their dining room survey
Curry Without Worry – Volunteer or learn more about Curry Without Worry
Re-Plate – Learn more about Re-Plate and their services
The Burrito Project – Get involved or see a list of all the Burrito Projects by area