Preparing food for the homeless
January 17, 2011 10:00 AM   Subscribe

What is some food I could bake or prepare to give to the homeless person perpetually camped out in my neighborhood?

There is a homeless man who is in the same parking lot, day in and day out, all seasons, in my neighborhood. When I go to the store adjacent to the parking lot I pick up something easy to give him, bottle of water or some cookies or something. It's very cold out now and he's still there, like always. I'd like to prepare or bake some food for him, but what could be eaten on the street and will keep, will be portable.. that kind of thing?
Suggestions? Thank you.
posted by little_c to Food & Drink (25 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
When I lived on the edge of LA's Little Tokyo way back when, I used to give out peanut butter and honey sandwiches. Cheap, portable, nutritious.

A couple of times I made a big pot of beans and rice and handed out plastic bowls of that. Cheap, nutritious. Not very portable.
posted by notyou at 10:05 AM on January 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

healthy bar cookies, that will not crumble or crush in his bags would be nice.
posted by jennstra at 10:07 AM on January 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

This isn't homemade, but there are self-heating soup cans!

You could make him some granola bars, or beef jerky (especially if you have a dehydrator, try this or this)
posted by mkb at 10:07 AM on January 17, 2011

Seconding rice and beans.
posted by griphus at 10:08 AM on January 17, 2011

Some nice dense, nutritious muffins, full of nuts and seeds and dried fruit and such. You can switch them up and make him different kinds from one week to the next.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 10:08 AM on January 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Why not ask him what he'd like you to bring? Calories aside, a favourite food might do him more good psychologically.
posted by dowcrag at 10:11 AM on January 17, 2011 [8 favorites]

Seconding dowcrag - if you feel OK talking to him, that would help a lot (especially if he has any food issues like diabetes or allergies).
posted by cadge at 10:14 AM on January 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

we would have the local coffee shop give us styrofoam cups with lids and make a pot of chili. chili goes in the cups, cup goes in a bag with a candy bar and a dollar (or 5). if they had a dog, a small bag of dog food was added. we'd do this for a group of 20 or so.
posted by nadawi at 10:20 AM on January 17, 2011 [6 favorites]

Baked potato, yams, squash, a pat of butter and good on you for feeding someone.
posted by hortense at 10:30 AM on January 17, 2011

I've sent you a MeMail about resources in your neighbourhood.
posted by tivalasvegas at 10:37 AM on January 17, 2011

if you can't ask people individually (homeless folks are folks and have their own preferences, allergies, restrictions), i used to make pb & j sandwiches for folks and pass out to folks who wanted them.
posted by anya32 at 10:41 AM on January 17, 2011

I think anything with a lot of fiber could be problematic. I'd ask him, but don't be surprised if he'd rather have money.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:43 AM on January 17, 2011

I (nearly) always carry an apple in my bag, and if I have one, I offer it to anyone who asks for 'help' or 'money to eat.'

Sadly my apple is often turned down, but happily, the people who accept it really are obviously excited to get fresh fruit.

So, I suggest adding a sturdy fruit to your gift.

For things to cook, banana nut muffins are popular.
posted by bilabial at 10:57 AM on January 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I always keep a few clif bars in my car for this purpose. I've only been turned down once, by a guy who said he was diabetic.
posted by notsnot at 11:05 AM on January 17, 2011

We used to do that in Highlandtown. Whatever you give out, never assume that they even have something to eat it with. Plastic spoons were always appreciated whenever we gave out canned soups or stews. Also, remember that some of these guys, if given too much, are just as likely to sell what you give them... so try to give them what they need for one meal and then come back if you are so led.
posted by brownrd at 11:07 AM on January 17, 2011

Beef jerky seems like a good idea to me. I'm not homeless, but from eating it while hiking, it's a lot of energy in a lightweight package.
posted by salvia at 11:07 AM on January 17, 2011

Granola (with fruit). Muffins. And hey, you don't really need a dehydrator to make jerky. It can be done in a low oven if you prop the door open with a wooden spoon.
posted by Gilbert at 11:11 AM on January 17, 2011

A couple things to keep in mind.

1) A lot of homeless folks don't get much fresh fruits and vegetables. However -- a lot of people also have not had access to good dental care and so are unable to eat things like apples or hard granola bars. So I'd suggest more soft fruits, like oranges or bananas, or granola bars that are soft/chewy.

2) Sandwiches are good too. Make sure you don't put things like mayo on them which will quickly go bad (well, not this time of year....)

3) I second the suggestions above that you talk to him/her and find out what he/she would like to eat! Also -- if you're comfortable with it, maybe offer to take them to a local coffeeshop and have a cup of coffee. That way you can get to know them better, and they will have a chance to get warm, use the washroom, etc.
posted by tivalasvegas at 11:36 AM on January 17, 2011

I've run into a lot of street people who are vegetarians, so do keep that in mind.
posted by sacrifix at 11:41 AM on January 17, 2011

I give out honey coated nuts. Sweet enough to be a pleasant "treat." Good shelf life, requires no prep, with a high calorie density and nutritional value. It's my standard street corner food giveaway.
posted by cross_impact at 12:38 PM on January 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Make some kind of casserole including many representatives of the food pyramid - enchiladas or lasagna with veggies, for example, or tuna casserole with peas, etc - let cool, cut into squares, and wrap. This is portable, easy to eat either hot or cold, with or without flatware, and needs only a piece of fruit to be a complete meal. Alternatively, offer to drive him to the local pantry so he can get his own food. You're awesome.
posted by goblinbox at 1:49 PM on January 17, 2011

Occasionally i'll give the homeless guy near my grocery store a bag with bagels, bananas and a jar of peanut butter.

I recently saw a group of people walking around my neighbourhood with a big thermos of chili, a ladle and a bunch of styrofoam bowls and plastic spoons. When they asked homeless people if they wanted a bowl of chili they seemed to get a uniformly enthusiastic response.
posted by Kololo at 4:48 PM on January 17, 2011

Kololo: what a coincidence, I just handed over a very similar paper bag last night. The one I handed over had a banana, an apple (although the point about someone not being able to eat this if they have dental problems is something I hadn't considered before) and a soft pear, along with a sliced bagel smeared with peanut butter and wrapped in foil.
I also packed some napkins and a plastic bag for waste.

Wet naps or a small container of hand sanitizer would be a good idea if you have them. (I tossed in some instant hand warmers as well last night, it was about 14 degrees).

Home-baked protein bars seem like a good idea, as does home-made gorp. Breads with cheese baked in (if the recipient doesn't have a lactose intolerance might work) as well as zuchinni/banana/carrot bread loaves. Also, strip pizza without cheese (just red sauce) and focaccia-type baked goods might work as well, depending on dietary restrictions.
posted by stagewhisper at 6:55 PM on January 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

ONe of those rotisserie chickens from the grocery store. Rip off a drumstick and pair it with some pease and mashed potatoes in a tupperware.
posted by WeekendJen at 11:29 AM on January 18, 2011

Keep in mind that a lot of homeless folks have more regular access to food (at shelteers and stuff) than they do to things we take for granted such as clean dry socks. Any foodstuffs delivered with stuff like that would probably be received even better.
posted by softlord at 1:04 PM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

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