Volunteers serving food at Loaves & Fishes Tuesday
It’s a 26-year tradition in Sacramento – the annual Loaves and Fishes Thanksgiving feast at the soup kitchen just north of downtown. An estimated 1,000 people – either homeless or down on their luck – were served a big, hot lunch Tuesday.
It takes around 200 volunteers to feed a thousand people – people like Richard Raya, who says he’s struggled to get by on his social security.
Raya: “I haven’t been here for a couple of years, but this year’s been pretty rough.”
Ben: “Because of the economy?”
Raya: “Yeah, the economy and just everything so high now. I can’t ride the bus as much as I want to now, even though I have a disabled pass and stuff. I don’t get to ride it as much. So it’s just hard to make ends meet.”
So Raya and everyone else feasted on several different kinds of turkey – cooked, sliced and donated by members of the community. They could also choose from mashed potatoes, collared greens, fresh cornbread and a bunch of different pies. But this year is different from previous ones, says Loaves and Fishes Executive Director Sister Libby Fernandez:
Libby: “There’s two things going on. One is we’re seeing a lot of new faces here at Loaves and Fishes, so we’re serving a lot of families who have never been homeless before. The other thing is, we’re receiving a lot of in-kind donations and people wanting to volunteer.”
This was also the first Thanksgiving feast since a sprawling tent city along the American River brought media and political attention to Sacramento’s homeless population. James Edwards, who goes by the nickname Nemo, has been camping illegally for months as part of a group calling for a legal “Safe Ground” for the homeless to sleep.
Edwards: “Honestly, we’re very fortunate to have Loaves and Fishes here. I’ve seen what it’s like to be homeless in other cities. It’s just – they really have to fight for our meals. But here, we can survive.”
Nemo’s planning on spending the winter in a motel with a voucher provided by City Hall. When he gets back on his feet, he wants to go back to Loaves and Fishes – as a volunteer.