One Meal at a Time
Meet Earl Harris, kitchen manager at Jane Addams Place
25 years, 25 stories
As kitchen supervisor at Jane Addams Place, an emergency homeless shelter run by West Philly’s Lutheran Settlement House, Earl Harris is responsible for feeding 30 to 35 families — about 115 mothers and children — three meals and a snack, every day.
The kitchen staff also has secondary goals: to teach families the importance of healthy eating while serving the most nourishing foods possible. To support these efforts, The Food Trust partnered with Jane Addams Place over the course of two years to help Earl and his colleagues source fresh, healthy foods on a limited budget and integrate them into the meal program, and facilitated hands-on cooking workshops for families in residence.
Families are not always open to trying new things, Earl says. “Food can be an exciting situation or a touchy situation. You find a lot of mixed emotions, but once we capture the children's attention, the moms usually follow suit.”
At a recent meal, Earl served butternut squash as a side. “Is it carrots?” one mom asked. “We turned it into a fun little game,” says Earl. “Who can guess what it is?” Soon people were trying the unfamiliar vegetable to see if they could figure it out.
“Most of the families, they weren't aware of cantaloupe, broccoli, things like that. The Food Trust equipped us to educate the moms on how important fruits and vegetables are,” says Earl. “And since we have been doing that, we had a tremendous increase in people eating fresh produce.”
Learn more about The Food Trust's myriad programs that connect underserved communities with fresh, affordable food.