Written by Christina Lopez.
The air was thick with conversation and the smell of coffee as over 200 people filed into First United Methodist Church just before sunrise on Tuesday, November 7th. About 30 volunteers were busy setting up tables, serving eggs, filling coffee cups, and making sure everything was ready for Feed My People, a program that serves breakfast to hundreds of the homeless and working poor in the Austin community every Tuesday and Thursday starting at 5 AM. The program, a part of the nonprofit Foundation for the Homeless, is a collaboration of 15 religious congregations that have worked together over the past 15 years.
Feed My People depends on volunteers, many of whom are students at the University of Texas at Austin. Liberal Arts Council’s Campus and Community Focus committee frequently sends volunteers to FMP. CCF co-chair Anilya Krishnan said Feed My People follows the committee’s goal of serving the greater Austin community, not just the UT campus.
“This is an event we’ve been doing for years, and is by far one of our favorites!” Krishnan said.
Third year Humanities major Ian McEntee volunteered for Feed My People for the first time on Tuesday. He served coffee during the event and helped clean up after.
“Volunteering with Feed My People was a great experience because it demonstrated the sense of community within the homeless population of Austin,” he said.
There was plenty of lively chatter over breakfast plates, and several people stopped to share stories with the volunteers behind the coffee table as they filled their cups with cream and sugar. However, there is a very palpable issue behind the program.
According to a KXAN article published in April 2017, 2,036 people in Austin were counted as homeless, and of those, 834 live outdoors in cars, tents, parks, under bridges and on the streets.
Additionally, 7,000 people are estimated to experience homelessness over the course of a year in Austin and Travis County. Such a large and prominent homeless population normalizes the issue and makes it easy to overlook. For this reason, programs such as Feed My People are vital in helping to improve the greater Austin community by bringing attention to important issues and working to ameliorate them.
“I chose to volunteer because I wanted to experience people outside of those that we normally experience inside of the UT campus,” McEntee said. “Plus, there was a period of time my dad was homeless and actually was impacted by organizations such as Feed My People.”
Sophomore Grace Schrobligen enjoyed her volunteer experience because of the obvious impact it had on everyone involved, from those serving breakfast to those receiving breakfast.
“It was rewarding to see how you’re immediately benefitting people,” Schrobligen said.
Jay Anand, a sophomore Plan II major, agrees that volunteering for Feed My People was a fulfilling experience.
“Getting a chance to do something as simple as serve breakfast and coffee to the local homeless community was an amazing opportunity for perspective and gratitude,” Anand said.
Several people paused to share their genuine thanks with the volunteers handing them coffee cups. A man with warm brown eyes said on his way out, “We really appreciate people like you. It’s real nice.”
Featured image by Foundation for the Homeless.