GLIDE’s eagerly awaited Harvest Dinner, held the week before Thanksgiving for the families GLIDE serves in San Francisco, traditionally heralds the start of the holiday season for the GLIDE community. This year, the dinner also marked the debut of a collaboration between GLIDE and Farming Hope, a nonprofit organization that provides culinary apprenticeships for people experiencing employment barriers such as homelessness.
On November 15, GLIDE served a Harvest Dinner of Thanksgiving classics—including roast turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans and dessert—for 130 families, or nearly 800 people. Attendance increased 30% over last year’s dinner, when GLIDE fed 100 families. Inflation has heightened the food insecurity experienced by many of the guests, all of whom participate in GLIDE’s Family, Youth and Childcare Center or its Family Resource Center.
“It feels like everything’s gone up at least 5%,” said Ana Rosa Gonzalez, a Family Resource Center client who has come for the dinner two years in a row. “The Harvest Dinner is a really big help, especially considering how things are right now. And the GLIDE community is very kind… you feel like you are part of the family.”
As with the last two Harvest Dinners during the COVID-19 pandemic, guests received this year’s dinner in to-go boxes instead sitting down together at the usual dinner venue, GLIDE’s Freedom Hall on Ellis Street. Behind the scenes, this year’s dinner came together in a very different way from any previous dinner, which have always been prepared on site by GLIDE: this time, the Harvest Dinner was catered by Farming Hope.
Theresa Calderon, GLIDE Family Resource Center manager and dinner organizer, explained, “This partnership helped us to accommodate all the families interested in the dinner and to extend our reach in the community. We’re excited to continue growing our connection with Farming Hope.” At the same time, the collaboration gave Farming Hope a new opportunity to pursue its mission of training apprentices, feeding people experiencing food insecurity and rescuing food from landfill.
“It’s really all about creating and then sustaining community,” said Ram Olivares, general manager at the Refettorio, Farming Hope’s professional kitchen facility on Fell Street. At the Refettorio, Farming Hope cooks more than 1000 meals each week for community organizations that feed families in need. In addition, they host a three-course dinner there every Wednesday for more than 50 neighbors served by Compass Family Services. Whenever possible, Farming Hope uses “recovered” produce: imperfect but healthy food that might otherwise be thrown out by farmers and suppliers.
Much of the food preparation and cooking is done by the paid apprentices in Farming Hope’s 12-week training program. The program recruits people who have a hard time finding jobs—whether because of homelessness, past incarceration, recent immigration or some other obstacle—and teaches them professional cooking techniques, kitchen practices and the life skills it takes to hold any job. Past apprentices have included GLIDE clients.
Vianney Trujillo, program manager at Farming Hope, said, “The first six weeks are really focused on getting here on time, checking your schedule, clocking in and clocking out, taking your breaks, communicating with a manager if you’re going to be late.” As the program progresses, apprentices learn job search skills, such as how to do a job interview. Most graduates of the program find jobs with restaurants or other food service employers, but some are working in fields as diverse as landscaping and social services.
One of Farming Hope’s recent graduates, Mabel, returned to the Refettorio to help Ram prepare GLIDE’s Harvest Dinner. “It feels like coming into my own home when I come back to work here,” she said. “I get excited when they call me when they need extra hands…. I’m very proud of all the things that I’ve learned here.”
"It feels like coming into my own home when I come back to work here."
The Harvest Dinner served on November 15 reflected the love, hopefulness and inclusiveness that went into its preparation—and GLIDE’s guests appreciated it. As Ana Rosa got ready to carry her family’s dinner home, she said, “Because I’ve needed help and I’ve had the blessing of GLIDE’s help, I try to help others when I can… I wish happiness, health and love for everyone.”