People bring a lot of food to homeless encampments, which is good! It shows concern and a willingness to help.
The problem is that the campers can’t use some of the food people bring, either because they can’t cook it on site, or because there’s simply too much food for the number of people living in the camp. (If you want to bring food to a camp, I suggest canned meat soup which can be warmed up in a microwave for an instant, protein-dense meal.)
The surplus food clogs the campers’ shelves, so I am removing it from the camps, sorting it, throwing away what is expired (only about 15%, I’d say), and figuring out what to do with what’s left. Yesterday, I made tuna casserole for Camp Second Chance with donated tuna and pasta, and I’ll do the same again for Camp United We Stand later this week. I’ll be using tomato sauce and beans for chili in the weeks to come. I’ll use pasta and canned corn for goulash.
But some food I just can’t cook, so I’m giving it to other meal providers. Today, I delivered 25 pounds of spaghetti, 15 jars of peanut butter, and a couple of dozen bottles of ketchup and mustard to Operation Sack Lunch, which runs many feeding programs. (I forgot to take a photo! It was a great haul!) Last week, I brought sacks of potatoes and onions to St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church, where chef Josef Honiker cooks for 350 people every Tuesday, on behalf of Greater Seattle Cares.
The food that is most needed is almost never donated; specifically, protein; that is to say, meat. Meat is expensive and perishable, so it’s hard to get and hard to keep. I’m buying ground beef in 40-pound lots at Cash and Carry and freezing it, which brings the price down to $3.24 per pound. Also, I must buy carrots, celery, eggs, milk, flour, cooking oil, and frozen peas and green beans. For much of the rest of the meal, I can look to the Big Pantry!