“It seems like a lot of times the food that people donate to the homeless is lacking nutrition,” she said. “That’s a passion for me, too. I make sure that I make some really nutritious meals and make sure we get some fresh fruits and vegetables.”
Sanow is one of 177 volunteers who have signed up for The Outpost’s meal train. Since January, more than 12,000 individual meals have been served to residents. This comes out to nearly 1,000 volunteer hours spent preparing meals, said Ren Autrey, director of Outsiders Inn.
In addition to the Safe Stay Community, Outsiders Inn runs a year-round meal train providing dinners for residents at St. Paul Lutheran Church’s Men’s Shelter at 1309 Franklin St. in Vancouver. The nonprofit also provides meals for several Satellite Overflow Shelters during winter months.
“Each of our shelter locations, they do not have kitchen spaces,” Autrey said. “We can’t have a commercial kitchen because we’re basically an emergency shelter, and this is crisis mitigation. So our community is wrapping around us with their resources.”
The meal trains often experience a dip in volunteers during the summer months when people are on vacation, Autrey said. To ensure residents always have lunch and dinner, the Outsiders Inn meal team always has a backup meal ready.
“There are a lot of good people out there,” he said.
In terms of feeding people who are homeless, it isn’t lack of food that’s the issue, but distribution, said Clark County Food Bank President Alan Hamilton. Because some people experiencing homelessness move around frequently, they can be hard to reach.
“There is enough food,” Hamilton said. “Getting it out into the community — that’s difficult.”
The combined meal distribution efforts of nonprofit organizations like Outsiders Inn, grassroots groups and individuals are helping bridge that gap.
A few weekends ago, the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church hosted a barbecue at The Outpost. “They had the works,” said Crystal Drake, an Outsiders Inn shelter peer worker who is part of the on-site staff. “There were lettuce, onions, tomatoes, pickles. The whole night.”
Sanow, meanwhile, is working to get the word out about the Outsiders Inn meal train to other potential volunteers. She recently asked a friend to start volunteering with her so they can cook meals together. Sometimes her 13-year-old daughter, Amelia Picinich, helps her cook.
Picinich came with her mom to The Outpost on Wednesday evening to drop off the baked ziti after her volleyball practice. “I just think about the community and everything, and about how everybody helps,” Picinich said. “And I just think when I’m older, I want to do something like this, too.”
This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.