Nutrition and being homeless!

This is a topic almost NEVER discussed and I feel it should.  It seems that NOBODY and I mean nobody pays attention to this topic at all.  Most people worry more about the nutritional feeding of school children than they do the homeless.  Aren’t the homeless a member of society too?  What puts more strain on the Medicare/Medicaid programs?

A while back, I did a posting on the various places that feed and shelter the homeless.  Unfortunately, I did not go into great detail on the feeding of the homeless.  I hope to correct that here with additional information.

It’s said around Columbia, South Carolina, that “if you go hungry around this town, you’re not trying to get food.”  This for the most part is true.  There are tons of places feeding at various times of the day/week.  I’ll list several here:

Oliver Gospel Mission (from here out known as OGM)

Ebeneezer Church (usually prepared by the Salvation Army)

Trinity Church

St. Peter’s Church

First Baptist

Soup Cellar

various other groups large and small

The three main groups here are OGM, Ebeneezer, and the Soup Cellar.  These are the people feed on a daily basis.  Well OGM and Ebeneezer do.  The Soup Cellar serves lunch during the weekdays but is one of the main providers of food.  Here is where I’ll admit even I don’t have all the facts.  However, I’ll tell you what I know about OGM and the Soup Cellar.  I’ll relay what I’ve heard about Ebeneezer (we call it Ebisqueezer).

OGM I know well.  You’ve read what I’ve already said about them as a shelter.  Now you’ll know what think of their food service.  My biggest complaint about OGM’s food service is not so much the food, which is often times donated and reasonably fresh (sometimes you get a meal that is prepared the same day, sometimes not).  My biggest complaint against them is with a cook that adamantly will NOT follow the Department of Health’s food preparation regulations.  But to talk of their food is another thing entirely.  Yes, there are times you get what is suppose to be nutritious and it is a balanced meal if nothing else.  Problem with any prepared food (most of their supplies come from U.S. Foods when it’s not donated), it’s not really nutritious at all.  It’s more like institutionalized food.  Over cooked and tasteless.  I’ve had vegetables there that were like mush.  Meats are mostly soy or fatty.  Donated meals are often overcooked as well.  Anyone in their right mind knows overcooking food ruins the nutritional value of the food not to mention fatty foods raise cholesterol levels.  Oh wait, they think pumping too much overcooked veggies into you to up your fiber levels will prevent this.  Bullsh*t!  This isn’t the only thing I’ve been served there while I did eat (I no longer go to OGM for anything) there.  I’ve actually had to eat or starve some stuff there that I wouldn’t slop a hog with and being from rural Michigan, I do know what they slop hogs with.

Now the Soup Cellar on the other hand does NOT serve anything but lunch Monday through Friday as well as most holidays.  For the most part these people are a group of churches in the community who provide lunch for the homeless as well as those needy people who are barely getting by.  Their lunch consists of two sandwiches of which on is PB  &J (you all know what that means), soup during the winter months, fruit cups during the summer, and cold sweet tea.  The bread here is generally fresh though at times it suffers.  PB & J is generally nutritious and not overly fat.  The soups during the winter are generally good though they tend to be either too much salt or too much pepper.  And, as God is my witness, they use far and away too much beans in their soups.  I can deal with green beans, Lima beans, or even butter beans in my soup but they’ve gone beyond even that making some of their soups totally inedible.  When you can pick up an eight ounce cup of hot soup and the bottom comes filled with no less than four kinds of beans (some of which I’ve never heard of or eaten before other than the ones I’ve mentioned) you’ve gone far to far.  Homeless people don’t need all the fiber and protein that they are getting fed.  Now where the Soup Cellar gets decent at is getting other things like pasta salad or bagels or things like that in to supplement their usual offerings.  I love pasta salad personally.  However, their pasta salad often has far too much oil (oil based dressing) and again beans in it.  The other pasta salad they serve from time to time is mayonnaise and mustard base.  This type is excellent for the most part.  But again, they ruin it by adding beans.   I don’t mean just any beans either.  I mean a bean that is red in color and leaves a foul taste in my mouth.  When they use this bean in the soups the soups often come out looking like human manure and tasting just as foul (NO I DON’T EAT HUMAN FECES ).  At least when the soup is good you can have all you can eat of it.

Ebeneezer, I’ve only heard minute things about.  Mostly the meals they are served are done by the Salvation Army or so I’m told.  When one hears of the Salvation Army, they think how good they help the community.  One only has to look at the South Carolina Salvation Army’s record.  Especially the fact that it fired one of it’s Major’s for embezzlement/fraud and said person is still in jail last I knew.  The only thing good I’ve heard about Ebeneezer is that they serve dinner at all.  The biggest complaint I’ve heard is that their portion size is way too small.  Go figure.  Sounds to me like the Salvation Army hasn’t gotten rid of their corruption issues yet.

There are other places to eat for the homeless.  These are the three main ones who serve a meal or sometimes two a day.  Others (churches, private individuals, and small groups) seem to do better than the larger feeders.  One church for certain takes precedence.  That is Trinity Episcopal  Church who does breakfast every Sunday.  It is at least a nutritious breakfast of grits, scrambled eggs, sausage, warmed apples, milk, and coffee.  The apples part is new as they use to serve baked beans and orange juice instead.  Personally, I welcome that change with the exception of dropping the OJ.

Sadly, the homeless AREN’T getting the proper nutrition for what they have to face on the street.  Often times the homeless are walking from one place to another to warm up in the winter.  Most of these places feed a high fat, high protein diet instead of getting these people what they need.  People burn a lot of energy quickly during the winter especially.  A high carbohydrate diet is called for in the winter for the homeless.  Fatty and protein rich diets do not metabolize quickly enough for the person to maintain energy for what they are doing.  I can see the high protein diet in the summer where the homeless are less likely to move during the heat of the day.

Proper nutrition is everyone’s concern.  Even today’s children are being fed better stuff in the school cafeteria now than what the homeless are fed.  They at least get more choices. The homeless get little or no choices in what they are served breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

The only way we can get people off the Medicare/Medicaid merry-go-round is to educate them as to proper diet (yes, advertising actually is getting better for food substances on this issue).  The homeless need better nutrition in order to face the environment (especially if they don’t go into local shelters).  A great deal of the food fed to the homeless is largely FAT, PROTEIN, and SUGARS. These are absolutely the last things the homeless need at any time.  Especially those that are diabetic as there are a large contingency of those that are homeless.  Feeding a balanced diet of protein, carbohydrates (not over cooked vegetables), starches, and dairy products would go a long way in taking a number of homeless out of the health care system.

Far too often the homeless are getting fed some of the nastiest stuff known to man because it’s CHEAP and the providers can get away with extra money for themselves in return for providing a minimal amount of sustenance for the homeless.  All to often, some of the food is day old stuff (mostly baked goods from a local bakery) or stuff that wasn’t sold at a local restaurant.  OGM is notorious for doing the later as a cost cutting practice.  Is it better than some of the stuff the relief organizations feed the third world countries?  In one word NO!

We can do better than this in America.  Yes there are children still not getting their nutritional requirements at schools across the U.S.  But think about it this way.  Many who are homeless or possibly about to become homeless will be that much more of a burden to society if their health fail due to improper nutrition.  I myself have witnessed it’s effects on me.  At one time, my body was eating it’s own muscle due to improper nutrition.  Would you rather see children on the street the same way due to YOUR GREED! Enough said.

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