Feeding the Hungry for 10 Years in Ocean Beach

by on November 6, 2017 · 10 comments

in Ocean Beach

Screen capture from “Surf N Serve Ministry” video.

‘Feeding The Hungry’ Ministry Celebrates Its 10th Year

by Bob Edwards

Every other Tuesday for more than ten years, Feeding The Hungry Ministry on Sunset Cliffs Blvd. in Ocean Beach has welcomed seniors, low income, disabled, and homeless people of our community to a free, nutritious, and tasty meal.  A ministry of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, the all volunteer staff serves 80 to 180 people at each meal.

Long time volunteer and organizer Jack Hamlin shows some of the bounty donated by San Diego vendors. All photos except top by Bob Edwards.

“The turnout varies, depending on the time of the month,” according to Jack Hamlin who has been volunteering and helping organize the program for about seven years [Editor: Jack has also written for the OB Rag].  At the beginning of the month about 80 to one hundred meals are served but when a meal date falls at the end of the month and people on fixed incomes are running out of cash, as many as 180 have been fed.

Each meal day, volunteers meet in the morning to collect food from various donors, gather needed supplies, evaluate what food they have, and devise a “mystic menu” of high protein, calorie- and vitamin-rich dishes.  After the initial group gets the cooking started, they take an afternoon break from about 1:00 to 4:00 PM when the rest of the volunteers arrive to help with cooking, set up, and service.

At the meal on October 31, about 60 guests entered the Parish Hall at the church and signed in – for “auditing purposes” said Jack, “so we can show how many people were served”. After seniors were served first, the guests proceeded to line up at a serving station where they received nicely plated and generous servings of fresh fruit and green salads, vegetables blanched in broth, rice and/or potato salad, tender roast beef and gravy and/or chicken drumsticks, dinner rolls, and a choice of cookies or pudding.  Beverages included milk, punch, coffee, and cola.

Hot and healthy meal for needy community members

The quality of the food preparation is more home style than institutional and the servers are welcoming and helpful.  Current and past chef volunteers have included Don Coulon of Belgian Lion fame who cooked for the Ministry until the age of 82 and a current chef, Laurie, who is retired from working at the Catamaran.  The volunteer servers are trained and tested by Jack, a certified food handler Manager.  The kitchen is pristine and County Health Services have always given the program an “A” rating.

Chef Laurie working on the main course

There is also a pantry that provides food items and ingredients to go: canned goods, corn bread mix, and other items both perishable and non-perishable, even on occasion dog food.  In addition there are usually some toiletries available as well as donated clothing that can be provided as needed.

Much of the food is donated by local businesses such as Bread and Cie bakery, Einstein Bagels, Specialty Produce, and The Grocery Outlet in Allied Gardens.  The Ministry is currently working on building a relationship with the San Diego Food Bank as a source for additional food.

Fresh fruit salads are just one course of last week’s meal

Feed The Hungry Ministry has been proactive with the current Hepatitis A Crisis, ignored for so long by the city.  County Public Health nurses were recently invited to the dinners to provide close to 100 guests and volunteers with Hep A vaccinations.

Of the program’s guests, about 20% “meet the classic definition of homeless”, 40% are temporarily or intermittently homeless (couch surfing with friends or family and not on the street), with the remainder low income seniors, families, and disabled, according to Jack.  Guests this past Tuesday were uniformly polite and grateful with some eating alone and some regulars sitting with their friends, catching up on their recent activities, the news, and other topics.

Volunteers Tom Hayes and Leah Bussell staff the dessert table

The backbone of the program are the volunteers, a diverse group of locals and other San Diegans.

Some but not all are from Sacred Heart Parish.  According to seven year volunteer Tom Hayes, anyone can volunteer and non-Catholics are made to feel welcome and play an active role.  Some of the volunteers are retired, others are still working like Linda, who has been donating her time to the program for three years and comes down to OB to help out after working her waitress shift at the Spice House restaurant in Clairemont Mesa.

One group of volunteers that adds a youthful vibe and seem willing to fill in where ever help is needed is the “Surf N Serve Ministry”, a group of students from Point Loma Nazarene University.  Some of the students have made a short video about their group, which gets together to volunteer at the meals two to three times a month and surfs on the alternate Tuesdays when meals are not served.

Brigette and Maddie, PLNU Surf N Serve volunteers

Susie  Baumann who has been volunteering for five years told me what an “eye opener” her experience has been there.  I asked her if she had received any negative feedback from anti-homeless community members who often perpetuate the idea that such programs “enable the homeless” or encourage them to come to OB.   She said she had only heard supportive things and:

 “This is not a political thing.  They’re hungry, we feed them.”

This writer has to respectfully disagree with Susie.  When our government cannot or chooses not to provide enough healthcare, shelter, or food for our most vulnerable people, programs such as Feed The Hungry Ministry ARE making a political statement as well as showing the potential for a caring society to provide basic human needs for all our neighbors.

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, Feeding The Hungry Ministry has been in existence for ten years and Jack gives credit to all the volunteers whose commitment make the program work.

He said that anyone interested in volunteering time or donating food or clothing can contact him at jackhamlin55@gmail.com.

Monetary donations can be made by going to the Sacred Heart web page and clicking on the link at the bottom of the page.


{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

OB Joe November 8, 2017 at 9:28 pm

Excellent reporting. Thank you for doing this. This work goes on underneath our day to day scope and deserves the recognition it can get. (Let’s see if the MSM picks it up) Ten years – thank you volunteers of the ministry.


Jack Hamlin November 9, 2017 at 6:59 am

Thank you for your recognition of our ministry. Our goal has always been to serve and to be a part of the OB community. Our ministry is to serve those who are hungry, so if you ever feel that way on a Tuesday evening that we serve, please join us.


Ol OB Hippie November 8, 2017 at 9:30 pm

That’s a pretty good looking plate of food. All from the generous donors and volunteers.


Jack Hamlin November 9, 2017 at 7:01 am

We have certainly been blessed with generous donors and equally generous volunteers. That is what has kept us going for nearly eleven years. As I wrote above, all you need is to be hungry to join us for a meal. All are welcome.


editordude November 8, 2017 at 9:34 pm

Greetings, Jack Hamlin! You are amazing. For those not in the know, Jack for a while back was a regular member of the OB Rag staff – just before we launched the San Diego Free Press.


Jack Hamlin November 9, 2017 at 7:03 am

Thank you for the recognition Frank, but like I told Bob, this ministry has flourished due to the incredible volunteers who give their time and talents to ensure successful dinners time and time again. I am so very glad they were recognized in the article.


Nancy Witt November 9, 2017 at 1:03 pm

THANK YOU Jack Hamlin and your volunteers for doing what you do, and for Frank to acknowledge the good works. And a big THANK you for wonderful Don Coulon who has done his many yrs. of cooking , and hope he’s finally having extra free time.


Scott Dreher December 1, 2017 at 12:25 pm

The real thanks should go to Tresha Souza and So Others May Eat, who started and managed this program. Not fair that others take the credit so shamelessly.


Dana Hammond February 7, 2019 at 2:25 pm

Hello my husband and I are interested in volunteering. How do we go about getting started? Do we just show up? How do we proceed.
Thanks Dana Hammond


Jack February 7, 2019 at 4:25 pm

Thank you for your offer to serve. We serve every other Tuesday, or next dinner will be on February 19. Most volunteers show-up around 4:00 p.m. to set up and finish food prep. Dinner begins at 6:00 p.m. and we have some volunteers who show up then for clean-up and break down. We are usually finished by 8:00 p.m…..many hands make big work small.

In peace, Jack

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