When regulations scrap soup kitchen, volunteers hand out groceries, vouchers
By TIM HEARDEN
MILLVILLE, Calif. -- A 4-H group that ran into a bureaucratic maze when it wanted to serve hot meals to the homeless has found a solution.
The youngsters instead handed out vouchers to McDonald's restaurants and bags of groceries during visits to several homeless encampments in Redding, Calif.
The handouts marked a change of course for Adrienne Hulst's Cow Creek 4-H group, which had planned this winter to prepare homemade soup and cornbread and take it to the streets.
Local and state officials had told them they'd need to have a certified kitchen and meet other requirements to serve the hot meals.
The vouchers and goodie bags were a compromise, Hulst said.
"It actually gives them a few days of food to eat instead of just like a bowl of soup," she said. "It worked out really well."
The group had received a $2,000 service grant to feed homeless people at about a dozen encampments in the Redding area.
Group members, who range in age from 5 to 18, expressed surprise and frustration in March after hearing of all the government restrictions on their food-serving plans.
The group was told that children under 18 could not prepare food, that they had to fill out pages of paperwork detailing their deliveries and that they must set up a tent and wash station at each stop.
The group considered trying to comply with all the regulations or handing out prepackaged food that doesn't need to be cooked.
The 4-H'ers bought $300 worth of McDonald's gift certificates and filled grocery bags with loaves of bread, jars of peanut butter, some fruits and vegetables, applesauce, packages of dried Top Ramen noodles and bottles of Gatorade and water.
In addition, a family donated 30 toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste and pairs of socks to put in the bags, Hulst said.
"They were all really respectful and really thought it was a great idea," she said of the recipients.
The group will still seek a way to deliver hot meals next winter, Hulst said. She's been talking with a local nonprofit organization about using its kitchen, and youngsters have been gathering ideas, she said.
"They see the benefit of it far exceeds the problems," she said. "They have gotten to see that there's lots of rules and regulations to doing good. Not necessarily do they feel that all the rules in place are good, but they understand why they're there."