Cooks for Community connects those in need to hot meals

Apr 14, 2020

Lifelong Wareham resident John Decas and Southcoast Health have teamed up with the South Coast Food Policy Council at the Marion Institute to provide 100 food-insecure people in town with a hot meal from a restaurant five days a week for a month through the Cooks for Community program.

Marc Anthony’s will be providing meals on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and Minkle Boys Catering will cook on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Some of the meals will be dropped off for homeless people at an encampment and motels, and the rest will be picked up by recipients at the YMCA. Community Youth Empowerment has volunteered to hand out the food.

Liz Wiley, the director of the Marion Institute, of which the South Coast Food Policy Council is a project, worked with the YMCA and Council on Aging to identify those most in need of this kind of help, so they will be getting a hot, nutritious meal every day. Meals are being distributed to senior citizens and the homeless.

All the meals will be family-style and nutritious, including proteins and vegetables.

“There’s a need, and we are doing everything we can to meet that need. We're just very grateful that we have this opportunity,” Wiley said.

John Decas said he reached out to Wiley to see if she would be able to set up a feeding program for Wareham residents through the Marion Institute. He initially donated $10,000, which was matched by Southcoast Health. He then donated an additional $10,000 -- enough to fund the program for a month. 

“I’m hoping that this will inspire other people who might want to contribute to the institute for this same program to perhaps extend beyond the month,” Decas said. “It’s a time of need, a lot of people are struggling.”

The program also benefits local restaurants, many of which are struggling due to Baker’s orders limiting their business to take-out and delivery only.

Joseph Latham is volunteering to bring the meals to homeless recipients in encampments and at motels. He was homeless until recently, and has maintained strong connections with many in the community. 

“What do you do if you have a stay at home order but you don’t have a place to live?” Latham asked. 

He said that as places like the YMCA and Council on Aging have closed, homeless people are forced to stay outside all day and night and have lost access to services like the Council on Aging’s daily meals and access to electricity to charge their phones. All the shelters, he said, are full or closed. 

“That’s why I was so excited [about this program] and jumped right on in. I know they need stuff because I was just there,” Latham said, adding that he is also distributing toiletries along with meals. He said that homeless people in encampments are especially vulnerable to disease because they don’t have access to bathrooms or running water.

He said he hopes that the pandemic will increase the public’s awareness of the issues faced by people in poverty and the homeless. 

Donations to this program can be made to the Marion Institute’s Southcoast Food Policy Council - Cooks for Community program.

To be added to the waitlist to receive meals, call Mel Dyer at the YMCA at 774-762-0015.