How Food Donations Feed The Hungry (Deliciously).
Bill Bracken is the founder of Bracken’s Kitchen and former executive chef. His tenure includes time helming the kitchens at The Peninsula Beverly Hills and the Island Hotel in Newport Beach. Most recently, he was involved with The Ensaymada Project, an online Filipino pastry business. Bill stepped away from the project when Bracken’s Kitchen earned 501c3 (non-profit) status, so he could dedicate more time developing his idea.
The story behind Bracken’s Kitchen begins with Bill, his wife Molly and their youngest child Lucas. After the birth of Lucas, Molly chose to leave her successful career to raise him. Mornings were spent at their local Starbucks, spending quality time together before Bill left for work.
It was during these mornings when Bracken noticed a well-suited man on his computer, drinking water. Over time, this same man became disheveled in appearance. Bill last saw him sleeping on a bench outside his local Ralphs. After speaking to the store manager, he learned that Randy had lost his job, his home and then his car. Randy was too proud to accept any handouts, as he didn’t want to be a burden to anyone.
When Bill faced unemployment in 2011, he learned first-hand what it was like to no longer have a job. However, Bracken’s conservative spending and severance package allowed his family to have options. His realization that Randy and his other coworkers did not have the same options gave Bill a sense of guilt, inspiring him to do something. And so Bracken’s Kitchen was born.
Each week, Betsy (the mobile kitchen), reaches out to provide a nutritious meal in a relaxed setting to those who need one. Per Bracken, “At Bracken’s Kitchen, we believe strongly in the power of food to impact and change a person’s life. There is truly no better way to get to know a person intimately than by sharing a meal with them. Food breaks down all barriers. This is rooted in the fact that as humans, we all share the two most basic needs for survival: air and food. The problem is air is free, and food is not. That gives it enormous power in a person’s life.”
The Culinary Trio of services they strive for consists of three programs that work together to achieve a common goal. First is the idea of their Recovered Food Program. Donated product from restaurants and hotels would be repurposed into the meals used in their Food Truck Feeding Program. This same food would also provide the learning environment for their Culinary Training Program. Bracken’s Kitchen will provide young adults and at-risk youth a chance to develop basic skills to work in a professional kitchen. The skills learned would enable them to help with the development of the Food Truck Feeding Program, as well as pave a career path in the culinary arts.
As a non-profit, they are always in need of, and looking for ways to keep their costs down. If you cannot donate financially, there are many other ways to help. Food supplies, equipment, paper and cleaning supplies are items always accepted. Chefs’ Toys is proud to support Bill and his team. If you have a connection who would be willing to support and sponsor Bracken’s Kitchen with such items, have them complete a contact form on their website.
Three more opportunities to assist include offering your Time, Talent and Treasure. By time, we mean volunteering a few hours in either the kitchen or out feeding people with Betsy. Your talent involves any office and administrative assistance, including (but not limited to) legal advice and accounting. Lastly, treasure translates to the financial support by others. As Bill points out, “With an average food cost of less than 50-cents, donors can easily calculate exactly how many meals their donations will serve.” Inquiries and donations can be directed to www.brackenskitchen.com.