Every single Sunday for the past 18 years in a small Hollywood parking lot, Food on Foot has been offering a free meal and an opportunity to get a start out of poverty to the area’s homeless community. Last Sunday 35 Hilton & Hyland Helping Hands volunteers were onsite to help distribute food, clothing, and a smile to the 180 people in-need who came through the line. During their service the Hilton & Hyland volunteers met graduates of Food on Foot’s Work for Food program who have successfully transitioned from homelessness to working members in the community.
Food on Foot founder, Jay Goldinger, began serving meals out of the trunk of his car in 1996. Wanting to provide a ‘hand-up rather than a handout,’ Jay began recruiting volunteers from the homeless community to pick up litter from streets and parking lots in exchange for food gift cards. Realizing it would take a greater commitment to address the needs of the homeless, Food on Foot was founded as a non-profit organization. Today the Work for Food program helps approximately 40 individuals earn meals each week while building up their confidence and developing work practices to help transition back into society.
As a worker demonstrates reliability over time, Food on Foot will secure an apartment and a job for the individual. The program pays all basic living expenses for a period of three months. During this time workers must turn over their paychecks to hold un-cashed, adhere to drug tests, and obey all program rules. Upon graduation of the program, all of the worker’s paychecks are returned, giving them a nest egg to help continue their success. 87% of Food on Foot graduates remain employed after completing the program.
Hilton & Hyland associate and long time Food on Foot volunteer, Richard Maslan says “I have been participating with Food on Foot for 7 1/2 years. It has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. In the time I have been a volunteer I have personally witnessed a number of homeless clients go from the weekly serving line to the work program and on to a successful transition from homelessness and as we like to say “from a tax burden to a tax payer”. It is one of the only programs that you can actually see your donation of time and money help someone to again become a participant in society. I urge anyone who has an extra 2 hours on a Sunday to come and see for themselves what can be done, if only in a small way, to make life better for others.”
Food on Foot receives no federal funding and relies solely on donations and volunteer support. Their ‘$98 Club’ currently has 350 individuals who have committed to donating $98 per month to support the organization’s mission. To join the $98 Club and for more information about how you can help be a part of Food on Foot, please visit www.foodonfoot.org or contact Jay Goldinger at (310) 442-0088.