PMD Projects Going Greener

If you’ve cooked with PMD lately, then you know that for the past year we’ve been vermicomposting our non-meat, primarily vegetable food scraps (peelings, stems, egg shells, etc.) instead of disposing them in the trash. It has greatly reduced waste, allows the worms* to thrive, and eventually generates rich compost for our outdoor projects.

Since we purchased and installed a composter in the Lee Outdoor Classroom (as well as helped them start a bin in one of their preschool classrooms) in early spring, we’ve had the responsibility of feeding them regularly until the kids return next week. We’ve fed them with food scraps/waste from meals we’ve prepared from scratch for clients of Hearth’s Anna Bissonnette House, Rosie’s Place, and Community Servings.

Restaurants are “going green” in this way, and I hope that our recipient charities will be someday be able to do so on their own, instead of just when PMD volunteers are helping them. Hopefully, our setting this example will demonstrate how easy it can be.
*The red worms are special, not earthworms, suited for higher temperatures, and were generously donated by PMD volunteer Louis D.

Disconnect between what people want and do?

I can’t afford a subscription to The Chronicle of Philanthropy to read the latest study about giving to the poor, but I’m not surprised that it concludes “Many donors say they want to support charities that help the nation’s most vulnerable citizens, but their giving patterns don’t support that goal,” since many people say that they want to help the homeless, for example, but then these same people are uninterested in volunteering to help this population.

Volunteering in direct service gives participants first-hand experience in shelters and other programs that serve the needy. These experiences, while short of actually personally utilizing these services, make lasting impressions on PMD volunteers.

Our younger volunteers have even gone so far as to tell us that they think that everyone should have the awareness-building experience of volunteering in a shelter, despite the obvious greater issue of eliminating the need for homeless shelters.

And while many people will decide to try to help the needy in more ways than direct service volunteering, I think that their early experiences do shape and influence how they do so, whether by voting choices, personal and corporate philanthropy, etc.

Stolen groceries delay lunch, but don’t dampen enthusiasm

A huge satchel of groceries was stolen from the curb in front of the Anna Bissonnette House (ABH) in the South End on July 14th. This heavy bag contained $60 worth of spinach, cheese, butter, summer squash, apricot nectar, crackers, and tomatoes that volunteers from British Telecom Conferencing were going to use to prepare lunch for the 40 frail and formerly homeless elders who permanently live at ABH. 

The satchel was on the curb for less than a minute, and was taken when volunteers were distracted by a bus melee while I parked three car lengths back. We discovered that it was missing after we had divided up the dishes to be cooked and were looking for the missing ingredients. (fyi: I filed a police report due to the outrageous nature of this theft, stealing from the needy, but don’t expect that anything will come of it.)

The seven volunteers and I adjusted the menu and someone rushed out to purchase some replacement groceries, only delaying lunch by 30 minutes and causing the cancellation of pre-lunch bingo.

We always say that our volunteers should be flexible and that our volunteer project managers should expect the unexpected, but the egregious nature of this theft really surprised me.

I thank the volunteers who made a delicious meal despite the early setback, and the understanding elders who understood why lunch was delayed and why we held a drawing instead of playing bingo as planned.

Volunteers ricing potatoes







 Preparing cantaloupe appetizers

Plating lunches 







British Telecom group photo

I really like feeding people….good food.

I really like feeding people, whether they are family, friends, homeless people at a shelter, or formerly homeless elders who now live permanently at the Anna Bissonnette House in my former neighborhood, Boston’s South End. Maybe I’m nondiscriminating since everyone can be hungry.

Call it selfish, but I feel good when I prepare a nice meal for people. To me, a nice meal is something delicious and comforting and made from scratch, not something packaged/unhealthy, which is why I particularly like cooking for people who share this view.

On June 23rd, Greg, Eric, Karen, Jeremy and I worked hard to put together a popular luncheon that had frail elders taking seconds, thirds, and even fourths for dinner later at the Anna Bissonnette House. We served fresh fruit, crackers, and cheese for starters. Then Greg roasted and sauced* 16 kosher chickens (that had been frozen and donated to me by Trader Joe’s); Eric made fresh, summer vegetable medley; Jeremy made potato salad with lots of vegetables hidden in it; and Karen made low-cal, glazed chocolate sheet cake, all from scratch. Yum! *I highly recommend making quick barbecue sauce using the recipe from Cooks Illustrated.

Locally, Rosie’s Place recently wrote that they are actively trying to improve the quality of their meals by including more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and reducing fats, sodium, and processed foods, which only increases the pleasure I have in planning and preparing a delicious dinner for them. PMD will be there on Sunday, July 29, 2:45-7:45 PM, and we welcome your help if you are age 16 or older, male or female, and/or welcome your financial support to help us purchase top quality ingredients. The more people who help, the less work per person and the more ambitious a menu we can execute. Please sign up by 7/19 so I have time to plan accordingly.

While cooking is by far one of the most physically demanding activities that PMD volunteers take on, it’s incredibly rewarding. As Robert Egger, founder of D.C. Central Kitchen, said in the Washington Post, “I’m always amazed when people come in to volunteer at the kitchen and realize they’re having a good time, that it’s not ashes and sackcloth.”

This short interview by Tamara Jones is worth reading. Egger points out an emerging caste system, which is one reason why PMD has supported Hearth (formerly called the Committee to End Elder Homelessness) for nearly a decade. “You have all these efforts to feed hungry children when the reality is there are probably more hungry seniors in America than there are children. These are men and women who fought World War II. These are men and women who led the civil rights struggle. These are men and women who built our roads and a million other things that we owe them a debt of gratitude for, yet we refuse to even deal with the issue of senior hunger in America.”

In the interview, Egger raises important issues of respect for and empowerment of hungry people, many of whom are employed but still cannot make ends meet. I am not satisfied with serving anything of lesser quality than what I would feel good about serving to my own family and friends, and fortunately I have the ability to be uncompromising about this.

If you’d like to learn about food stamps and making food choices with limited funds, read the comments/tips that people posted in response to the Congressional Food Stamp Challenge in the spring. Congressman McGovern (and his wife) from MA was among the partipants who blogged about their experiences and received very interesting comments online.

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