Soaking wet and shivering, Father Ed Benioff of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills climbed out of a dunk tank after spending two hours in the cold during a Dec. 5 charity fundraising event. Smiling and greeting parishioners, the chilly Benioff told the Courier the discomfort was a small price to pay for a good cause.
The cause in question is Feed My Poor, a charity that provides meals for homeless residents founded by Benioff at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. What started as a few volunteers making sandwiches in March 2020 has turned into an interfaith, community-driven organization that uses a food truck to deliver food to people in need. They have served more than 300,000 meals so far.
“We started at the very beginning of the pandemic when there were people hoarding food and food shortages, and I just noticed that there was a need,” Benioff told the Courier.
“It was a tourniquet on the bleeding. There was a need, but we realized it was an increasing problem that had gotten worse with the pandemic.”
Now Benioff plans to keep Feed My Poor going long term.
The Dec. 5 event was the organization’s first fundraiser and included carnival games, karaoke, a rock climbing wall, raffles, a magician performance and, of course, food from the organization’s food truck. Three-time NBA champion and former Laker shooting guard and Head Coach Byron Scott attended the event.
“It really humbles you. No matter what achievements you’ve made, no matter what success you’ve had, it really humbles you to see that there are people out there who need this,” Scott told the Courier about his volunteer experience making sandwiches and serving the homeless. “I think we all recognize the situation we are experiencing in Los Angeles and around the world–we have too many people that are homeless, and the Good Shepherd and Father Ed have done an unbelievable job trying to do their part, and I’ve just really piggybacked off them and joined the crusade.”
Feed My Poor serves 700 meals per day, seven days a week and is completely funded through donations, which can be made at www.FeedMyPoor.com. The organization includes volunteers from All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Beverly Hills Presbyterian Church and Sinai Temple Los Angeles.
“We’re both making our communities better and the communities outside our walls better on a day-by-day basis,” Rabbi Erez Sherman of the Sinai Temple told the Courier about collaborating with the Church of the Good Shepherd. “We live in a community where more and more we see people hungry on the streets, and Sinai Temple and Good Shepherd are literally 1.5 miles away, door-to-door. And I think the world needs healing in a very powerful way and this is the way that our faith neighbors can come together and see the similarities of what we do.”
Sinai Temple joined the Feed My Poor community for Thanksgiving with 20 volunteers who helped chop 600 bags of fruit and will continue to work with the organization on a monthly basis, Sherman said.
Feed My Poor provides meals in Beverly Hills and throughout Los Angeles. In addition to food truck deliveries, volunteers also box up pre-made meals to be delivered by car to homeless residents throughout the LA area.
Los Angeles County saw a 12.7% annual increase in its homeless population, according to the most recent count by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) in January 2020. LAHSA’s 2021 homeless count was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns, but the organization estimates the population grows by about 20 people per day for a growth of 7,320 people in 2020.
While Beverly Hills is home to fewer than 20 homeless individuals, it lies within Los Angeles County Service Planning Area 5, which has about 5,042 unsheltered homeless residents. In Planning Area 4, immediately to the east of Beverly Hills, there are 12,454.
“You know, it’s the ongoing story right, but you still have to be humane,” Feed My Poor’s Marketing and Special Projects Director Christine Redlin told the Courier. “I think it’s a good inspiring story for our community to show people that we’re not just getting our nails done, driving Rolls Royces and having lunch with the Kardashians. We actually do good humanitarian work in the city and we do have an upper, middle and lower class among our 35,000 residents.”
About 750 people attended the Dec. 5 fundraiser, and all proceeds from the event will go back into Feed My Poor programs. Sponsors and partners of the fundraiser included Mercedes Beverly Hills, Gearys Beverly Hills, Wally’s Beverly Hills, Tom’s Toys, Big Events Photo Booths, LT Generators, Zachor Holocaust Remembrance Foundation and more.