Churches aren't the only option for free meals
"For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me," Jesus supposedly said way back when. In San Francisco, there are a multitude of churches that offer free food to the hungry (find a handy list at www.freeprintshop.org ).
But what follows is a list of secular organizations that share food — for the planet, for self-determination and providing for community outside of the system, for healthy food untainted by hormones, pesticides and GMOs, for food not grown by exploited workers, and for many other reasons, these groups bring food straight to the people.
Where: Parque Niños Unidos, 23rd St. and Treat. When: Sundays, 1-3pm. Numbers given out at around noon. The Free Farm Stand gives out food and flowers grown at the Free Farm on Eddy and Gough, where local volunteers grow and harvest produce. They also share local organic surplus produce left over from several farmer's markets and produce brought in from neighbors and from locally gleaned fruit trees.
The philosophy of the Free Farm is food sovereignty. Why should anyone go hungry, or go broke, feeding themselves and their kids? Instead, they figure, they should get for free what the earth gives. They facilitate this by offering the farm's harvest — as well free sprouts and plants, that people can use to grow food themselves.
"The solution to the problem of hunger is to share the abundance that's out there and to encourage people to grow food and share some with those in need." said a Free Farm Stand organizer. "We can set up neighborhood networks of people growing food and sharing their surplus." The Free Farm Stand is a step towards that vision.
Where: Tuesday, 16th and Mission, Thursday, Turk and Taylor. When: 6pm. Some of the folks at Better Days to Come have God in mind, but the organization's founder, Leonard Fulgham, came from not the churches but the prisons. As its mission statement says, "Mr. Fulgham began mentoring many of the younger inmates, while having the unique opportunity to hear their stories. Many of their stories outlined how they landed in the prison community and why they continued to return. Being homeless upon release back into society is a commonly known contributing factor to these ex-offenders being hungry while being starved by the lack of job training and vocational skills." Fulgham passed away March 24, 2012, and in his memory, the organization began serving two hot meals a week.
Where: Civic Center Plaza at Hyde and Market. When: Tuesdays 5:45-7pm. Curry Without Worry serves vegetarian food, mostly Nepali and mostly with five courses, in San Francisco every week. It does the same at its other branch in Kathmandu. Shrawan Nepali once owned a restaurant, Taste of the Himalayas, but used the proceeds to start Curry Without Worry and eventually sold it when "I realized I was not a businessmen." Instead, he's a man who feeds people a vegan five-course meal, which includes a sauce made from timur, herbs that grow in his Himalayan hometown but are rare in the US. "Our mantra is healthy food for hungry souls," says Nepali.
Where and when: Monday, UN Plaza at 6:30pm and 16th and Mission at 7pm. Wednesday, UN Plaza at 6pm. Thursday: 16th and Mission at 7pm. Saturday: Haight and Stanyan at 5pm. After 30 years, Food Not Bombs still serves almost daily in San Francisco at a few locations throughout the city. Volunteers cook meals then bring them out to the people, bringing home the message that there's enough to go around and you shouldn't need money to feed yourself. The Saturday team still shares food at Haight and Stanyan, where Food Not Bombs first parked three decades ago.
Where: In front of the Bank of America at 2701 Mission. When: Thursday, 5pm until food runs out. Occupy-related people, carrying on from the giant Food Bank of America action on Jan. 20, when the Bank of America at the Embarcadero locked its doors after activists set up a food table and hung two interactive banners where passers-by could write what fit under the category "person" and what fit under the category "corporation." They hung a third banner saying Food Bank of America, hundreds ate a hot meal, and the concept caught on. Now, people who have been gathering food donations for Occupy and otherwise give away fresh produce and hand out information about credit unions weekly in front of the bank.
Where: Mendell Plaza, at Third and Oakdale. When: Every third Sunday, 10-2. A few organizations, including the Black Star Riders Coalition and the Kenneth Harding Jr. Foundation, work together to put on this food giveaway every other week. It takes place in Mendell Plaza, the square that some have renamed Kenny's Plaza after Harding, who was killed in the plaza at 19 years old after a dispute with SFPD officers over bus fare. "First, we definitely want to honor Kenny, that's why we got there," said Tracey Bell-Borden, one of the organizers of the Community Feed. "But there's been a lot of activity in that area for a long time. So it's really about healing the community," she said. "We have to take care of our community."