What is the best type of canned food to hand the needy?

Much of what I have learned about the plight of the hungry on our streets is from a friend who serves as a board member to a non-profit feeding hundreds of people every week. He suggested Vienna sausages in a pull top can. They’re filling, salty and rich in protein. One of the nice things about the Vienna sausage cans is they are light, small and fit snuggly in my driver’s side door storage compartment. In my door I carry several cans of Vienna sausages as well as dog food.

Why not hand out money?

By handing someone food, I am meeting a basic human need. I am not attempting to evaluate how they became needy, whether they are truly needy, in bondage to substance abuse or lazy. I don’t care. If I hand someone money, I find myself evaluating and judging whether someone is worthy of my help. Handing someone food eliminates that calculation. Most of what I give away is within five miles of my home and the people I hand food to look desperate.

Are you a non-profit organization?

No. Maybe down the road. For now all I want to do is raise awareness to the concept of handing someone a can of food. I’m not asking for financial support.

Why do you carry dog food?

My guess is 25% of the needy I hand food to have a dog. The owners are thrilled to learn I have something for their buddy.

What do you say to a needy person when you hand over the can?

It depends. I’m good at sizing up the situation so I let that guide me. Often times I will roll down my window and extend my arm so the person sees I have something. Usually I tell them I have a snack for them. Some offer a blessing, others say nothing. I’m not trying to evangelize anyone in the 30 seconds we interact, I’m just trying to love them and meet a need. Sometimes I will ask their name which I have found at times to be a profoundly moving experience. Everyone has a name. For a time, one of my regular customers was a guy named Brian and his dog Ella. I probably offered them food three or four times in short window of time. Brian had some distinctive tattoos and his German Shepherd mix puppy was adorable and easily recognizable. One day near our Randall’s grocery store I spotted two homeless people and the dog I thought was Ella, but I did not see Brian. I got out of my car and said I had some food and asked if that was Ella. They were stunned that I knew the dog’s name. The women explained the dog belonged to her and her man Brian. When I told her I had met Brian and described him, she smiled and said, ‘yeah, that’s my man Brian.’ I like hearing people say their name and then I say it back to them.