by Lorie Lewis Ham
This week we checked in once again with Justin Kamimoto, founder and Program Director of Fresno’s M.E.A.L. Fresno’s M.E.A.L. is an amazing group that helps the homeless in Fresno all year long. I decided to see what they had going on over the holidays, future plans, and for anyone who has never heard of them got an over view of what they do.
KRL: Can you briefly share for the sake of anyone who might not know what Fresno’s M.E.A.L. is?
Justin: Fresno’s M.E.A.L. (Meals Engaging All Lives) is a grassroots community program dedicated to creating an experience with homeless individuals through a home-cooked meal. Every month we gather community members to cook and prepare a minimum of 200 meals at The Painted Table, in Fresno’s Tower District.
KRL: Fresno’s M.E.A.L. has been providing meals for the homeless for 2 years now, how have things changed and grown?
Justin: Fresno’s M.E.A.L. just celebrated its two year anniversary this November. In two years, we have made and given over 3,000 homemade meals to homeless individuals. What’s different? The core structure of our program is the same. We get together to cook, share stories and meet homeless individuals on the streets of Downtown Fresno.
The only difference now is that we no longer are at my family’s kitchen making the meals. Through the generosity of The Painted Table, we moved into a new facility to make meals on the second Sunday of every month, as well as stepped up our game in creating delicious foods. The Painted Table is allowing us to utilize their expertise on food to create these delicious meals. Every meal today still comes with what we gave out in the beginning: a hearty main coarse meal (utilizing locally grown products), bread, nonperishable snack, clean drinking water, and a hygiene product. It all still comes in colorfully decorated bags with positive messages and fun pictures.
KRL: This year you are also including a project called Keep Fresno Warm-can you tell us what that involves and how this came to be?
Justin: We are fortunate to establish an annual #KeepFresnoWarm Blanket Drive as an extension of our program during the early, cold winter months. Bring a new blanket to any of our business/organizations who are collection sites (Find one near you at fresnosmeal.com/keepfresnowarm) and every meal we give out in December will include a blanket. Our guarantee!
KRL: How many people are now involved with Fresno’s M.E.A.L.?
Justin: Fresno’s M.E.A.L. is composed of four leadership team members that oversee operations of our community program. We are all young folks trying to make a difference! In addition, we just launched this new M.E.A.L. Ambassador Program where people interested in giving a little more time than just the day of assistance, can help us develop and grow our program even more. To date, over 1,000 people have come out to volunteer with us in our two years of operations.
KRL: When is the next meal you are doing?
Justin: The next Fresno’s M.E.A.L. is on December 13. We will be cooking homemade chicken noodle soup! Stay tuned as dates for 2016 will be up on our website shortly.
KRL: Anything you’d like to add?
Justin: We just launched a brand new Ambassador Program. M.E.A.L. Ambassadors will work with our Leadership Team to further enhance the volunteer experience with us. These individuals will have 5-10 hours of hands on activity to further extend the reach of our program. Details and application to join are at fresnosmeal.com/ambassador.
KRL would like to encourage you to donate to Fresno’s M.E.A.L. this holiday season and beyond!