“People go down the row cafeteria style — we don’t just fix a plate and say ‘You get this.’ They don’t get to choose really anything else in their lives.”
Tricounty Family Ministries (TFM) CEO Sue Hanshaw has been with the North Charleston-based nonprofit since 1990, “I’ve seen it all.” Founded in 1983, TFM serves as a “one-stop shop” for folks from all backgrounds who have fallen on tough times. They provide clothes, counseling, classes, even temporary housing.
But it all starts with the food.
In 2018, the group served 107,026 meals and handed out more than 80,000 boxes of food from their pantry. They serve two hot meals a day, six days a week, with continental breakfast from 8:30-10:30 a.m. and lunch service starting at 11 a.m. When we visit mid-morning, food service manager Jimmy Priest is seasoning fresh cuts of pork as volunteers sort through produce, excising any blemishes.
“If people are hungry, they aren’t going to a class to learn how to budget,” says Hanshaw. “And they won’t go to counseling or addiction trainings if they’re hungry — that’s the only thing they can think about. That’s why Feed the Need is such a blessing, why Mickey is a blessing.”
Feed the Need president and founder Mickey Bakst — you may know him as the genial general manager of Charleston Grill — started Feed the Need in 2009 as a response to “economic collapse.”
“Shelters were not able to feed the people they needed to feed due to cutbacks,” says Bakst. So he did what he does best: started making calls. “It’s pretty simple, I called 52 restaurateurs and said ‘I need you to do me a favor, I need you to go into a shelter and feed 300-500 people.” And they did. “Last year we did 86 different lunch services and raised $600,000 for these organizations,” says Bakst.
Those hundreds of thousands of dollars mean everything to nonprofits like TFM. That money goes to their Healing Hands program, which helps with prescription meds, dentures, glasses, counseling, and nutrition. That helps keep their pantry stocked with canned vegetables and peanut butter and soup. It goes to their annual Christmas meal service and celebration, when upwards of 2,000 people will come to the shelter for a fully catered meal, toys, clothes, and turkeys to take home with them.
Hanshaw says Feed the Need’s twice-a-month catered meals mean more than just hot food going into empty bellies. Recent Feed the Need visits have included meals from Whole Foods catering division who brought salad, pasta with meat sauce, and veggies and Home Team BBQ who brought ‘cue sandwiches, dry-rubbed wings, baked beans, and “iced tea” to top it off.
“What it does for our people, they come in and they’re treated special,” says Hanshaw. “It’s like they’re going out to dinner — they’re getting the best food ever and the people that are serving it, they treat people with dignity and respect.”
Hanshaw fondly recalls a past Feed the Need service that was set up like an ice cream social. “There were all these beautiful toppings. Mickey was there and he asked people ‘Would you like a scoop of this, a dip of that?’ I have never forgotten it.”
Get out there, Charleston — all Burger Week participants are donating 25 percent of their sales to Feed the Need.