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A Brief History of GLIDE’s World Famous Fried Chicken

Fifty years ago, congregants from GLIDE Church organized a potluck for their hungry neighbors in the Tenderloin. Their pastor, Rev. Cecil Williams, GLIDE’s Co-founder and Minister of Liberation, requested fried chicken—a staple of any festive gathering in the African American community of his youth.

That’s the origin of what has come to be known as GLIDE’s “World Famous Fried Chicken.” Here’s how it has endured.

GLIDE’s church potluck grew popular quickly in a community stalked by hunger and, in many cases, also in need of compassion, understanding and fellowship. More people came, more food was served. In time, GLIDE transformed the potluck into what we now know as the Daily Free Meals program, the city’s only program serving three nutritious meals a day to all in need.

The Daily Free Meals program in action in the ’90s with Rev. Cecil Williams.

Countless dishes have made their way through the Meals program’s menu over the years. But one dish has remained a staple: our World Famous Fried Chicken, an affectionate label for a festive meal our community never tires of.

On Fried Chicken Thursdays, the lunch line in front of GLIDE extends farther than normal. In fact, two extra chefs come in to manage the demand. One chef prepares the chicken for lunch, and the other covers dinner. Meanwhile, the Daily Free Meals staff prepares the rest of the food and welcomes the guests. It’s a major production.

People sometimes ask, does GLIDE’s chicken boast some “secret recipe”? The truth is our fried chicken contains no unexpected ingredients. You wouldn’t think GLIDE’s fried chicken could contend with traditional restaurants. But it does.

Bobby and George, Daily Free Meals program staff.

“I’d put our chicken right up there with the best restaurants in the city,” says program director George Gundry, with understandable pride. “It might even outdo them.”

George was in the restaurant business 40 years before he joined GLIDE. In his time here, he and his remarkable staff, joined by thousands of volunteers each year, have gone out of their way to bestow on GLIDE’s Meals program guests the hospitality any customer would take for granted at the best restaurants. Meanwhile, George and team have helped GLIDE reach the milestone of 20 million meals served—a number that grows every morning, every afternoon, every evening. GLIDE’s World Famous Fried Chicken Thursdays only push that number higher.

As Thursday rolls around this week, it will be met once again by a great collective effort to welcome and serve hundreds of individuals and families in need, all ready to sit with good company and dine on the city’s finest fried chicken, prepared by some of the city’s finest neighbors—dedicated folks who, without knowing it, are keeping alive the spirit of a simple church potluck.


 

GLIDE’s Daily Free Meals program is the only program in San Francisco providing three nutritious meals a day, 364 days a year, to anyone challenged by food insecurity (today, approximately one in four San Franciscans falls into this category). GLIDE’s Meals program serves more than 2,000 meals a day, while acting as a gateway to GLIDE’s full, comprehensive array of programs and services designed to help people stabilize their lives and move beyond crisis and insecurity. You can help keep the tradition going by donating to GLIDE today.