Montclair Emergency Services for the Homeless (MESH) partners with churches and synagogues, as well as local restaurants in the Montclair community, to serve over 3,000 nourishing evening meals for homeless and near-homeless residents of Montclair as part of its MESH Cafe initiative.
When Alma Schneider, who blogs about healthy eating at Take Back The Kitchen sent us an email, asking if Baristanet/Barista Kids would consider cooking a Montclair MESH meal one night for 30 people, we said yes (and then thought to ourselves “we’re cooking for 30 people?”). Schneider, who leads the effort to get local restaurants, businesses and groups of residents to participate, said we just needed to provide a main course and dessert for 30. OK, we could do it. Heck, Jerry Fried did it.
Once we realized our meal had to be ready in the late afternoon, Georgette and yours truly created a plan of action. She would make chocolate chip cookies; I would cook up a big vat of chili. I come from a big family, so I’m no stranger to cooking in large quantities, but still I needed help. The night before my husband and I chopped up the 16 onions. The next day, it took three pots to cook up all the ground beef and onions. Meanwhile, Georgette was mixing up batter and baking trays of yummy chocolate chip cookies and her beautiful girls were doing their part — resisting the urge to eat them. I enlisted my son to open cans of beans and drain them while I stirred in the diced tomatoes and spices. Soon the entire house smelled of chili.
When your meal is ready, a MESH intern comes to your house to pick up the food. Joshua, a student at Montclair State, couldn’t have been nicer. He thanked Georgette and me profusely and said of the chili “They’re going to love this, chili is a favorite.”
After Joshua left for the American Legion Hall, Georgette got a message from Jennifer Snyder, baker/owner of the Little Daisy Bake Shop. She saw a Facebook post with Georgette’s just-baked cookies for MESH and wanted to donate some baked goods for the meal. Could we drop by and pick them up? Sure. I drove the goodies down to the American Legion Hall and saw the preparations for the meal. Tables were set with tablecloths and I imagined people in need of a good meal, sitting down to a dinner we had prepared for them. It was a good feeling — and even though I hadn’t had much to eat myself that day, I wasn’t hungry. The experience had fed me, too.
If you want information about preparing a meal or volunteering, visit Montclair Emergency Services for the Homeless (MESH).