ChicoBag:Tell us a little bit about the history of Martha’s Kitchen and the people you serve.
Ryan Van Den Heuvel: We’re getting ready to celebrate our 40th anniversary in October. It all started with Louise Benson’s desire to serve her community and the homeless community in her area. She started serving sandwiches out of a garage in Willow Glen, and it’s grown into a nonprofit of 18 staff members.
Our goal has been to provide food to those in need: anybody who needs a hot meal or needs help with groceries. If Elon Musk showed up, we’d give him a hot meal. We don’t ask questions, we don’t take names, and there’s no paperwork. You show up, we will get you fed, and try to direct you to resources. There’s also a cooperating network of agencies: Dignity on Wheels comes by with showers, and Order of Malta brings hygiene kits on a monthly basis. We’re always looking for those unique partnerships with multiple resources at one site.
CB: Where/how have you used the bags donated from the Pay It Forward Kitchen this holiday season?
RVDH: One of the things I love about Martha’s Kitchen is we aren’t just food. Every year, we do a huge Christmas toy giveaway. Last year, we distributed 8000 toys over 3 days. This year, we’re going to try to be creative around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the holidays. We will be using some of the ChicoBags to help distribute individual Thanksgiving and Christmas meals since we aren’t doing buffet style during the pandemic.
CB: What does the giving season mean for Martha’s Kitchen?
RVDH: Bill Lee (the Executive Director of Martha’s Kitchen) has changed the culture at Martha’s kitchen from, “Hey, we do food” to “Hey, what more can we do?” Our approach stays true to our grassroots beginnings. Our entire team works in a central office with a family-oriented culture--it’s the heart of where we serve from. We really expanded on that approach of “What more can we do from our community?” with toy drives or hygiene kits or trying to connect people to other resources.
CB: Any thoughts on sustainability and choosing reusable items? How does this come to life in your everyday operations?
RVDH: We try to be as sustainable and reusable as possible. For us, sustainability gets focused on the food side of things. We have a food rescue program-we partner with local stores and agencies to glean leftover food, an average of 12,000 lbs a month. If we can’t use it in our meals we have partners who do. We’re trying to grow in sustainability, with utensils, bags--specifically on the food side of things.