By Eric Seiverling
Dennis Jordan, 43, a resident of Pittsburgh’s North Side neighborhood, sat down to eat lunch at the Rainbow Kitchen Community Services in Homestead for what he thought would be a typical meal.
He received quite a surprise when he learned that he was eating sloppy joes made from venison.
“This is deer meat?” he exclaimed with a laugh. “This is really good.”
Jordan and approximately 100 other visitors were treated to the lunch at the kitchen on Thu., July 20th, when the Sportsman Channel brought its Hunt Fish Feed program to the area, led by Scott Leysath, host of the tv show The Sporting Chef and executive chef for the Hunt Fish Feed program.
Now in its 10th year, the outreach program uses game meat donated by hunters and fishermen and women to help feed the less fortunate and fight hunger across the country. Donated food has included deer, water fowl, and even wild boar.
“It’s good to connect hunters and the public with a high-protein food source,” Leysath said while visitors were being seated before being served. “We’re only here for one day, so we rely on strong community support. Our job is easy if we can get the attention of hunters to process their deer meat correctly and donate their extra meat.”
A resident of California, Leysath started the program a decade ago while owning his own restaurant and catering business. After a local news channel ran a segment on his business, Leysath decided to start the Sporting Chef program, which features wild game cooking tips, tricks and videos.
The Hunt Fish Feed program has served 30,000 meals at 90 kitchens in cities like Denver, Detroit, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, New Orleans, New York, and Pittsburgh.
“What we’ve found is that a lot of these people had a house or were paying their rent, but then they lost their job and next thing you know, they’re asking for handouts,” Leysath said. “Some of them had catastrophic illnesses. For some, they’re just not going to get any better.”
But talking to some of the visitors, like Jordan, one would have a hard time noticing their struggles.
A former gang member who is now disabled after being shot twice in the leg in 1994, Jordan has been coming to the Rainbow Kitchen Community Services for only a year. He previously lived in Georgia, Ohio, and California.
“Homestead is one of the best towns in the world,” Jordan said in-between bites of his lunch. “It feels like home because they make you feel like a part of their family. A person’s skin complexion doesn’t matter to them. I come here for the company. The food is just a bonus.”
The Rainbow Kitchen Community Services opened its doors in 1984 with the goal of providing aid to hungry, disabled, unemployed, homeless, and low-income families.
Last year, the kitchen provided 19,750 nutritious meals to local children, served over 20,000 daily breakfasts to visitors, distributed over 335,000 pounds of groceries to low-income families through its Food Pantry Program, and helped an average of 184 families a month in need of crisis assistance and case management.
“We’re here everyday and anybody that comes in here appreciates us,” said Betty Esper, mayor of Homestead since 1990. “These people are part of my community.”
Esper said she’s not surprised by Leysath’s visit to the kitchen.
“We get all kinds of people volunteering for us,” she said. “I don’t hunt or fish, but I might have to start watching the Sportsman Channel.”
Leysath said he was impressed by the kitchen’s willingness to help others.
“They’re devoted to their community,” he said. “It’s a happy group. They want to be here.”
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