About 600 homeless people lined up for lunch at Sacramento Loaves & Fishes on Monday, just as many of them do daily. But this time, they stood in the sweltering heat in the homeless center’s parking lot, which was filled with colorful food trucks serving everything from gyros to ice cream.
Sacramento Loaves & Fishes, a 4-acre day campus for homeless people, and SactoMoFo, a food event-planning company, partnered with nine food trucks to provide free hot meals, ice cream, chips and water to homeless men, women and children. It was the third year the organizations have hosted the event at the River District homeless center.
Marte Scott, who comes to Loaves & Fishes about once a week to seek help in finding a new apartment, said he was lucky it was food truck day.
“Besides the heat, it’s wonderful,” he said. “They don’t have to do any of this. Hamburgers, fries, ice cream, a lot of water and good fellas.”
SactoMoFo owner Paul Somerhausen and Sister Libby Fernandez, executive director of Loaves & Fishes, walked around the parking lot Monday making sure everyone was comfortable, full and refreshed.
“I get chills,” said Somerhausen. “When you see kids and imagine (their circumstances), it’s difficult to absorb. It’s fun to see their faces covered in ice cream and a smile on their face.”
Fernandez, who has volunteered at the center for 17 years, said they never advertise the event. When regulars show up to the shelter, they’re pleasantly surprised to find it’s food truck day.
Guests then follow the normal Loaves & Fishes routine – they pick up a meal ticket and wait until they’re called for their meal. About 200 people are let in through the gates, then greeted by volunteers handing out water bottles and surrounded by food options they don’t normally get, Fernandez said.
“They’re grateful,” Fernandez said. “They don’t think about tomorrow. (They say) it’s cool to have a choice.”
Somerhausen said the event is not very different from what SactoMoFo does normally at its food-truck festivals around the region. The company sets up tables, chairs and food for people to enjoy at parks and other events. But at Loaves & Fishes, they don’t have to pay.
“We all feel strongly this is part of being a business owner,” he said. “We realize how many people are needy. We’re lucky enough to be able to give decadent foods and give back.”
Somerhausen said SactoMoFo is able to host the event because the company, along with the food truck industry, has grown over the past few years. Some food truck business owners have asked Somerhausen if they can host the event more often. He said he wants to hold the event twice a year.
Aaron Faulkner, owner of barbecue truck Smokers Wild, said he’s passionate about continuing the event because he volunteered as a child at Loaves & Fishes. Alongside his grandfather, he served the homeless guests lasagna.
“(That experience) set the tone for the rest of my life,” he said. “And I don’t see myself stopping.”