Team NOLA goes MADD

By Helene Kirschke-Schwartz on October 30, 2013 in AmeriCorps, HIV/AIDS Awareness Days

Team NOLA goes MADD? You may think 1) I don’t know how to spell “Mad” or 2) the AIDS United AmeriCorps Team New Orleans is actually going crazy. I promise neither are true. MADD stands for “Make a Difference Day,” a National Day of Service that took place on October 26.  On this year’s MADD, AIDS United Team NOLA set out to do some good ole soup kitchen volunteering.

Except this isn’t just any other soup kitchen. Food for Friends (FFF) is an outstanding food delivery service, delivering meals to home-bound folks who are affected by HIV in the New Orleans area- and soon Baton Rouge!  Although FFF has been around for over 14 years, its site was lost during Hurricane Katrina, leading the organization to run out of a temporary location for several years. Just recently it moved to a brand spankin’ new kitchen, with plans to expand its services to other cities in Louisiana and even to cancer patients who are unable to cook for themselves.

dry-food-web

Our duties for the day started with packing and sealing the “dry good” breakfast. Each breakfast had 7 nonperishable items in it- all yummy and nutritious!  Jeremy, Louis, Rebecca and Morgan had a nice assembly line going while I managed the sealing machine (by the far the coolest machine I’ve ever played with). After all the meals were put in dry storage, we moved on to helping with the hot meals. Some of us scooped, some of us stacked, some of us sealed. We discovered Team NOLA’s hidden talent: assembly lines.

giving-food-webHoucine Harrabi, FFF’s fantastic and eccentric chef,  explained each part of the meal to us. He strives to make his meals healthy and delicious – which can be hard to do when making food for so many people. He even let us try out the meals because as he says- “I wouldn’t give any of our clients food I wouldn’t eat myself.” And let me tell you- IT WAS DELICIOUS. Shrimp pasta, spiced cauliflower, a yummy sauce (you can probably tell I don’t know anything about cooking). Our taste buds were very happy. Plus, Houcine has jazz blasting in his kitchen at all times. He is not only a master chef, but an unreal dancer and musician. The guy can do it all!

After sampling the hot meal for the day, we finished sealing and labeling all the meals. They ended up looking a little something like this:

labeled-food-web

Food for Friends serves about 50 clients right now, but will continue to expand in several ways. Glen Kahrman, the program manager, explained to us how the current program works and how he wants to make it even better. Right now, food is delivered to clients Tuesdays and Thursdays every week. There is also a food pantry clients can access when needed. Listening to both Glen and Houcine talk about their work made me truly thankful we have such humble, devoted people in this line of work.

This is such an important service in our community. Remembering to take medications, dealing with side effects, going to work, picking the kids up from school, trying to squeeze in some physical activity- yeah, having a warm, healthy meal waiting for you would be a nice relief. It’s another thing those affected by HIV don’ have to worry about.

Overall, our team really enjoyed our day with Food for Friends. I know I am extremely impressed with the quality of food and services provided to the clients- and I have volunteered in several soup kitchens in my life (pretty sure my mom was determined to volunteer at every soup kitchen in the state during my reluctant teenage years). This is a valuable organization that is serving our community the best it can. I sincerely cannot wait to see how it grows in the coming years.Team NOLA will continue to volunteer with FFF in the coming months- we even get to help them make pies for Thanksgiving!

teamnola-webTo end with a cheesy but true statement- everyday should be thought of as “Make a Difference Day”. Go MADD, give back, learn about your community.

 

 

 

 

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