Chef Eric of Operation Feed the People cooks up community supper every Wednesday evening at Boulder Creek Community Church.
By Julie Horner
A hard year can change your life. “Last summer my dog was diagnosed with cancer. My dad was sick, too, but he beat it.” Accustomed to traveling all over the state providing catering to the festival circuit, Chef Eric had been looking forward to going to Burning Man. The Universe had other plans. “Boy, I really want to do something but I don’t really have a lot of money. I needed something to feel like I wanted to get out of bed each day. And I really wanted to spend time with my dog.”
A professional caterer for over 30 years and owner of Plus 1 Catering, specializing in healthy, locally sourced food for all budgets, the answer quickly became clear. “What can I do? I can feed people. I’m not going to solve world hunger, but no one in my town, my community, will go through that.” So he switched gears and spent the summer set up under a canopy at Junction Park in Boulder Creek doling out hot food to anyone who was hungry.
“Turning on the news and seeing all the division in this country was really discouraging. When someone tells you that your neighbor is your enemy, I don’t believe in that, and I don’t believe in divisiveness. And nobody in my community should go hungry.”
A community’s success is measured by how the worst off are living. “That’s what we should do. We can all look at the TV and get mad. So and so should be doing this or that. But that’s a copout. What are YOU doing to solve the problem?” Chef Eric intended to rediscover the power of authentic everyday relationships. “The presence of light, good energy, positivity – some folks who are perceived as maybe having not so great energy – they begin to change. I felt like I could have a good influence.”
Then the Boulder Creek Odd Fellows approached him and explained what they do; it’s all about helping people. He began the process of becoming a member. “As a member, I can use the facility and have access to their commercial kitchen.”
Operation Feed the People was launched in December 2019 to help make sure that no one in the Boulder Creek community goes hungry. For some time the I.O.O.F hosted a weekly “Boulder Creek Community Dinner” offering handcrafted meals and a safe place to gather from 5:00 until 7:00 pm at the Odd Fellows building in downtown Boulder Creek. The dinner has long since moved to Boulder Creek Community Church, still on Wednesdays, but from 5:00 until 6:00 pm for the winter season, 2020. Boulder Creek Community Church is located at 12465 Highway 9, Boulder Creek.
“Regardless of your race, religion, political views, criminal history, or substance abuse problems, if you are hungry, you deserve access to food.” – Chef Eric
“The crux of it is, it has morphed into more than just feeding people. The main goal is to go beyond providing basic sustenance; the meal incorporates good, nutritious food choices. But it’s the community aspect of it: People are not alone in their struggles. Everyone realizes everyone needs help at some point.” The Boulder Creek Community Dinner allows people to meet and put their heads together to construct creative solutions.
“Every week new people show up and add ideas. I’ve put cans out at businesses around town so people can donate. I’ve planted a seed. I want people to come and have a good time, enrich their experience. What started out one week as basically a pot of soup, has expanded to become an evening of real conversations with real people. No one is on their phone. They are playing board games, interacting with one another. This is how community comes together.”
“We encourage everyone to share their own ideas…use the community to bounce ideas off of. Bring your craft, your idea, promote your solutions.” – Chef Eric
Along with accepting donations of clothing, Chef Eric and his crew cook up extra food into containers, which they freeze immediately and then deliver in relief boxes to anyone in need. For people who can’t get out. “Neighbors stop by to get boxes of food to help the homebound. This gets people to think about their neighbors and friends and family who need help. It has become a network. You sort of feel weird going over there, but if you bring a box of food you feel more comfortable. It’s basically a wellness check.”
Chef Eric believes Boulder Creek has the resources. “We are a small town capable of big things. If I was going to dream big, I hope that we get enough attention, that every town in the nation follows our lead and it gets to Washington: You guys go back to arguing but we’ve got it. We know how to feed ourselves, thanks. Until we can feed everyone in this country, we can’t say to anyone that we’re the best.”
Operation Feed the People “Boulder Creek Community Dinner” at Boulder Creek Community Church.
Every Wednesday evening 5:00 to 6:00 PM
12465 CA-9, Boulder Creek, Boulder Creek, CA. Facebook page: www.facebook.com/ericjferelli
To donate: https://www.plus1catering.com/operation-feed-the-people
“Feed me and I will come. Tonight I went to Operation Feed the People for the first time. First of all, the food was excellent. But the real treat was to break bread with my community. There were even a dozen teenagers! I believe this is what makes Boulder Creek such a magical place to live. Please contribute to this amazing local cause by just attending! You don’t have to bring anything or give anything. Let’s just come together & be one.” – Chelsea Osenga
(c) February 2020 Julie Horner for the San Lorenzo Valley Post.