Hunger on the Streets
Life on the streets is more unbearable than most of us can imagine. Being unsheltered during a pandemic adds a layer of stress and risk that none of our homeless neighbors should have to endure alone. People experiencing homelessness are more susceptible to negative outcomes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. While most of us will be able to stay safe or recover in our homes, our neighbors experiencing homelessness face additional challenges such as arduous living conditions and, especially, poor nutrition and hunger. Poor nutrition can contribute to issues like fatigue and weakness, leaving homeless individuals more vulnerable to transmittable illnesses.
Finding a nutritious meal can seem like an impossible task for those living on the streets. During the COVID-19 crisis, it is even more difficult. Fewer restaurants are providing food and smaller service providers have closed their food service programs, making meal options scarce for unsheltered individuals.
Providing Critical Meals During COVID-19
To ensure our neighbors are still able to receive healthy meals at this uncertain time, the staff at Father Joe’s Villages’ Food Services program jumped into action. While the dining rooms in our Joan Kroc Center and the Paul Mirabile Center were closed in March to prevent congregating and maintain distancing, our Food Services staff continues to provide meals to those in need through a modified service.
Through the Franklin Antonio Public Lunch program, our Food Services program is now offering packaged meals to-go to the public and to residents in our Transitional Housing, Inclement Weather Shelter and Emergency Housing programs. In addition to lunch, we have expanded the program to serve breakfast and dinner to the public—granting neighbors an additional opportunity to access nutrition and sustenance.
Village Heroes: Eddie the Food Services Cook
Heroes like Food Services Cook, Eddie, worked quickly to make the adjustments necessary to continue providing nutritious meals for homeless individuals in the rapidly changing landscape caused by COVID-19.
“It’s important to be there for the people who are in need,” Eddie says. “We’re being safe and cautious. We are wearing masks and gloves at all times. We are now serving meals through a sliding glass door to keep our clients safe, and to keep staff and volunteers safe, as well.”
For a year now, Eddie has been working as a Cook with Father Joe’s Villages, preparing breakfast and lunch for the Franklin Antonio Public Lunch Program which feeds hundreds of neighbors living on the streets every day, 365 days a year.
For Eddie, the drive to provide food for those in the homeless community comes from a personal place. Previously struggling with homelessness himself, Eddie found shelter at Father Joe’s Villages and later graduated from the Culinary Arts Program (CAP). The services he received at Father Joe’s Villages enabled him to find employment and housing, ending his homelessness for good.
“I’ve been there. I know how it feels to be homeless and to be hungry and to want. I am a product of Father Joe’s Villages, and I’m not going to stop helping other people now,” explains Eddie.
Expanded Services to Meet Increased Need
Eddie’s drive to help others is what encourages him to work extra hours cooking meals for two new scattered site meal locations Father Joe’s Villages opened for individuals unable to access the public lunch line.
After hearing of increased food insecurity in the community as a result of the pandemic, our Food Services staff acted quickly to compensate for food sources that were halted. Neighbors struggling with homelessness can now receive hot, nutritious to-go meals Monday through Friday at one of Father Joe’s Villages buildings on 5th Avenue and Ash Street in downtown San Diego and at our Hillcrest Thrift Store and Donation Center location.
Eddie is relieved that the Father Joe’s Villages Food Service program not only continues to operate but has also expanded. He knows how it feels to go hungry and is grateful to work for an organization helping those most vulnerable in the community.
“The doors are always open for people in need at Father Joe’s Villages,” he says.