Three times a week, a small and changing group of local individuals meets at Bayside Community Hall to cook and package hot meals for distribution in the greater Arcata community.
Over the course of a couple of hours, they transform over-stock food from local non-profits, groceries and farms into an average of 65 meals, which are packed into a vehicle and delivered to folks who are hungry.
This endeavor is self-organized by an informal group calling itself Arcata Mutual Aid. They are not an “official” organization. They don’t have staff or a formal structure. They are a diverse, consensus-driven group that is very much focused on action, on doing something to support the neediest folks in our community.
Mutual Aid is an organizational concept that dates back to the 19th century, whose founder, Peter Kropotkin, postulated that cooperation, rather than competition, is the driving mechanism behind evolution.
Whether or not you accept that premise, there is something to be said for neighbors helping neighbors in a direct way, without an added layer of either government or charitable organization in between.
One of the best things about AMA’s effort is that it is using food that might otherwise go to waste. Each week, one of the group makes the rounds to various locations where there is more food than is needed (I was really surprised that this is actually a problem!).
For each meal, one of the group with cooking experience will design a menu based upon what is available and what will travel well in packaged form. Several more help with cooking and packaging, another two will distribute the food, and yet another will make sure that everything is cleaned up at the end.
The individuals working with AMA bring much valuable experience to their interactions with the people they are feeding. Several are trained in nursing or social work.
They can offer hygiene supplies, tell people about other local resources, distribute warm clothing. But the most important thing seems to be the one-on-one contact. Letting people who are living at the margins know that they are a part of the community.
For the year 2021, Bayside Community Hall is welcoming this group as an official Hall affiliate. In return for kitchen use, AMA performs many of the kitchen maintenance tasks, like deep cleaning, managing compost and recycling, and stocking the Little Free Pantry that is now in front of the Hall.
They are also planning a take-away meal to raise funds to cover the expenses of items that aren’t donated (like to-go containers, COVID safety items and basic kitchen supplies). Stay tuned for more info!
For information, to send Bayside news or to just say hi, email [email protected] or call (707) 599-3192.