CCE Service Ambassador Anthony Aguiar and his partner, Kate Abazis, recently spent a day working at a very special organization... Binghamton Food Not Bombs.
“I heard about them actually by searching through the CCE's database”, said Anthony, “I knew I wanted to help out a soup kitchen because I had never previously experienced working in one. A soup kitchen is one of the most ubiquitous ways people can fight hunger so I decided before I graduated that that was where I needed to be.”
Anthony then wrote about his experience as a CCE Service Ambassador and how you can get in involved with this great organization!
Here’s Anthony’s story:
So the last few weeks my wonderful partner, Kate Abazis, and I, have been volunteering at Food Not Bombs, a local Soup Kitchen located in Downtown Binghamton. The organization is committed to serving a hot vegetarian meal to members of the community. Binghamton Food Not Bombs local chapter of an international organization that seeks to re-prioritize the lives of the world’s citizens, focusing on keeping people alive by feeding the hungry. Check out the organizational website: FoodNotBombs.net
So far the experience has been awesome. The soup kitchen is in the basement of a local church, conveniently located on the Blue Bus route right off of Front Street on 149 Chapin Street in Binghamton, New York.
Food Not Bombs is always looking for help preparing meals. The amount of volunteers varies every week, and the kitchen staff makes due with whatever number of Good Samaritan volunteers show up, but a couple pairs of extra hands makes the kitchen work far more efficient, and fun!
A typical day at the kitchen starts at 10:00 a.m., when the key holder, usually a nice man by the name of Kevin, a volunteer with the organization for nearly 3 years, comes and unlocks the front of the church. Volunteers follow Kevin into the kitchen, where he points out some the ingredients that will be used for the day’s meals. The group proceeds to brainstorm ideas, trying to come up with recipes that would best utilize the fresh produce. The volunteer group is largely autonomous. Food Not Bombs is a unique operation in the sense that they allow their volunteer “cooks” to dictate all aspects of preparing the meal. All of the ingredients are donations from the local community.
*Kevin hard at work.
This provides a very interesting challenge to volunteers…they must get creative and are forced to, think of substitutions and ways to complete dishes with minimal ingredients. Many volunteers have limited cooking experience, but Food Not Bombs always manages to promote everyone’s unique skillset. Despite these challenges, Food Not Bombs is always able to provide a hot meal with at least 3 food options and 1 dessert.
This past Sunday, Kate saved the day when another volunteer accidentally took the cake out before it was ready. In his attempt to remove it from the pan, the cake was destroyed and could not be iced. Remembering that the kitchen has had a surplus of cream cheese, she suggested we make Cake Balls, which require a crushed up cake and cream cheese icing. The concoction turned out wonderfully!
The same day, an additional carbohydrate dish was needed. Kevin decided to take my suggestion on crafting a soup. Using only vegetarian ingredients, broth was out of the question, so we had to creatively spice water using a mushroom base to make a vegetable soup, which came out flavorful. At the end of the day both Kate’s dessert and my soup were gone, with community members taking home containers of both.
Food Not Bombs is certainly run well, but like many organizations striving to provide the very best services for the local community, they are looking to make some improvements.
Kevin has a “wish-list” of much needed items that would help the kitchen run more efficiently. I was surprised to see that Kevin it included an “electric mixer”, a basic, but necessary, piece of kitchen machinery. Other items included spice stables, like turmeric, coriander, cinnamon, crushed red pepper, balsamic vinegar, measuring cups, assorted canned veggies, and ginger.
Another concern would be the nutritional quality of the foods we cook. Among the shelves of the kitchen are vegetable shortening, cake mixes, a full cabinet of baked goods and cream cheeses but often lacking in vegetables and whole grains. I’d be curious to find out how/where they get their donations and to look at the quality, though I can imagine why this is incredibly difficult relying on donations only. In all it has been a wonderful experience and we look forward to going each week.
Want to help out?
Binghamton Food Not Bombs Contact Information:
They need volunteers every Sunday from 10:00 am – 3:30 pm.