Food Safety News publisher Bill Marler tweeted Christmas Eve that Food Safety News will match up to a total of $5,000 donations made to Washington D.C.’s Miriam’s Kitchen between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Donate here and email or send a tweet @Olivia_Marler with the amount of your gift; Food Safety News will match it.

So, what is Miriam’s Kitchen? We emailed Jennifer (Jenn) Roccanti, Assistant Director of Development, to find out.


According to Jenn, Miriam’s Kitchen was founded in 1983 through a collaboration of the George Washington University Hillel Student Association, Western Presbyterian Church and United Church in response to an urgent need for services for the homeless in D.C.

The kitchen began serving breakfast to homeless men and women and has grown into an organization working to end chronic homelessness by advocating for permanent supportive housing and systemic change, critical case management services as well as arts therapy  to serve currently and formerly homeless individuals.

To Jenn, Miriam’s Food is an important part of the work.  And, because of that, Miriam’s makes all meals from scratch using the healthiest ingredients. Jenn hopes that the time and attention they pay to meals speaks volumes for the way in which the guests are treated.  Miriam’s philosophy is that “food brings the guests in, but once they’re with us we can begin to help them beyond meeting their basic needs.”  Miriam’s has three other programs:

Case Management Program:  The Case Management Program is staffed by three clinical social workers, an art therapist, two case managers, three year-long volunteer corps members/case managers, and one psychiatrist.

 They provide case management services whenever the doors are open: Monday through Friday from 6:30-9:45 a.m. and 2:30-5:45 p.m., and Wednesdays from 6:30 to 9:45 am and noon to 5:45 pm.
 The services include everything from providing clean clothing and assistance obtaining identification cards to mental health care and links to available housing.

11lady_650.jpgMiriam’s Studio:  Miriam’s Studio differs distinctly as a therapeutic space, compared with what many of their guests are used to, and that’s really important — especially for those individuals who don’t trust the traditional homeless services model.  Miriam’s Studio offers things like art therapy and creative writing workshops, yoga sessions, mental health support groups and resume assistance — all in an effort to build a strong community and relationships with the guests.

 Without such trusting relationships, Jenn says this work wouldn’t be possible.

 Miriam’s Studio groups are offered Monday through Friday, 8:15 to 9:45 a.m. and 2:30 to 4 p.m., and are facilitated by the art therapist, case managers and volunteers.

Advocacy:  The advocacy program model is made up of three parts.  1) Public Policy –  public policy agenda is geared toward creating solutions to chronic homelessness, including the production of sufficient permanent supportive housing units in D.C.  2) Guest Involvement – the advocacy program aims to empower and train guests to use their experiences, voice and talents for advocacy efforts. 3) Mobilizing Supporters – the program’s supporters, staff and board of directors are considered untapped resources for advocacy, so there is a focus on educating, empowering and mobilizing the supporters to become actively engaged in ending chronic homelessness in D.C.

Miriam’s serves meals with the help of two professionally trained, former restaurant chefs and more than 2,000 volunteers, to about 275 homeless women and men every weekday. This requires a great deal of funding, which is one of the program’s biggest needs – especially during the holidays. Miriam’s annual budget for 2011 was $2,000,000.

So, what are Miriam’s biggest needs? In the past four years, the group’s has grown from $988,100 to just over $2 million to accommodate recent expansions. In 2010, Miriam’s doubled program hours to include dinner and evening case management services and in 2011 Miriam’s added to advocacy to help kick start the work to end chronic homelessness in D.C.

Miriam’s is able to leverage financial donations, according to Jen, because of the tremendous investment of time from volunteers and in-kind donations from area farmers markets and grocery stores. This leverage is perhaps best seen in the Meals Program, where each plate of food costs just $1 in food costs to produce.  Here are some examples of what a donation will mean at Miriam’s Kitchen in 2012:

— $200 will provide one guest with a full year’s worth of case management services;

— $780 will provide a full day’s worth of Miriam’s Studio workshops to all of the guests (includes staffing, materials, etc.); and

— $2,100 will provide a full day’s worth of meals to all of the guests (includes food costs, staffing, maintenance, etc.).


Again, donate here to Miriam’s Kitchen and email or tweet at @Olivia_Marler with the amount of your gift and Food Safety News will match it.

Photo courtesy Miriam’s Kitchen