Operation Hunger serves homeless community in D.C.
WASHINGTON (NewsChannel 8) - Richard Taylor has two refrigerators in his apartment and a loft that serves as a walk in pantry. He played football at the University of Maryland and went to two NFL training camps. Athletes have to fuel themselves.
Taylor doesn’t play football anymore. He doesn’t even eat the food in the second fridge or the bread and muffins that are stacked in his loft.
He was once homeless, by choice; he says it was a calling.
“I walked out there with nothing, had a pen and pad. I just wanted to record my thoughts and see what happened,” Taylor said. “I discovered that there was no help for the homeless. People walk by with their iPads and cell phones in groups but they don’t want to help those that need it the most. The cars are extremely heavy zooming by. Nobody gave me any money. I found 61 cents and was able to get some water at Dupont Circle and Franklin Park. So it’s really a hard life. I was ready to quit hour one.”
Taylor stayed on the streets for 48 hours. When he returned to living in his own shoes he decided he wanted to help those that were truly homeless.
“I was trying to figure out what we could do to get consistent steady nutrition to people who have zero income, mental illness, and are sometimes veterans,” he said.
And so Operation Hunger was born.
“Richard told me he had an idea to serve the multitude. He wanted to go out into the homeless community in Washington D.C. and provide them with nourishment,” Richard’s friend, Rochelle Logan said.
Operation Hunger started serving peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to the homeless in December 2013. On a summer day in July they’re preparing turkey sandwiches.
“We needed the cost to be basically less than $22 a day. It was about figuring out the formula for how to value engineer it backwards so how we could feed people on $22 dollars a day, because financially that was the only thing feasible for me,” Taylor said.
Taylor’s friends volunteered their time. They picked up bread at $.70 a loaf from the Entenmann’s factory in Falls Church and 150 bananas for $8 from a Mexican food market near Gallaudet. The found discounts and bought items online. They prepared meals daily, working out an assembly line for preparing and packing the sandwiches. Once the 150 to 300 sandwiches are prepared the group personally delivers them on the streets or to shelters.
Operation Hunger managed to feed 200 people a day 7 days a week. The efforts inspired Universal Kitchen, another service designed to feed the homeless created by an Operation Hunger volunteer. Universal Kitchen took over weekend service.
After a month and a half of service and about six thousand meals prepared the initiative needed help. They teamed up with New Beginnings Baptist Church and landed a partnership with Costco.
“It's truly a collaborative effort, not only from the local businesses but from church members who go pick up food and volunteer their time to go do this, so that they know eventually homeless people are going to be fed, to people that are actually preparing and distributing the food. It’s truly an effort that has integrated every phase of the community,” Taylor said.
When the Operation Hunger team arrives at 2nd and D street, just outside the 295 tunnel, they’re welcomed by the homeless seated on a cement wall.
Taylor is peppered with “thank you,” “it’s good to see you” and requests for another muffin. Today, there are extras, he offers them to whomever would like some. They don’t last long.
“I think it's a job that nobody wanted to do. It's the dirty work but it was selfless work and there’s a currency that's worth more than money and it’s spiritual in nature,” Taylor said. “When you truly interact with the homeless population and you give them food and their gratitude and appreciation and knowing that you've done a good thing you can't buy it it's priceless.”