OAKLAND (KPIX 5) – Deep in East Oakland, two women are serving food to hundreds of people in need each week.
Cindy Carter-Hodges and Tanisha “Chef Nini” Roberson have known each other for about 20 years. They both have a love for food and Oakland, and the area of East Oakland in particular.
“It’s an under-served community. As you get closer to downtown, people have more resources and there are less resources out here,” said Hip Hop F.O.O.D.’s Executive Director Carter-Hodges.
Both Carter-Hodges and Roberson have culinary background.
“We got this food truck. God blessed us really fast. So we thought, well why not bless the community?” said Chef Nini.
Together, they run Feeding Opportunities on Demand (F.O.O.D.), a 501c3 that was formerly known as the Hunger Intervention Program Helping Other People (HIPHOP) Feeding Opportunities for Oakland Dependents (F.O.O.D.).
The organization mostly operates in the parking lot of Love Center Ministries, on a little money and a lot of love and faith. In the last three years, they’ve served 8,500 meals.
“Chef Nini has a very good knack of making full-course meals that don’t cost a whole bunch of money. So we’re able to feed people well on a minimal amount of money,” explained Carter-Hodges.
Chef Nini served four years in prison for selling drugs and learned to be a chef while she was there.
“It became the center point of everything for me, because it was a way for me to block out where I was. But for me, it was a time to personally reflect on what I did and what I was going to do when I got out,” said Chef Nini.
Just for the week of Thanksgiving, that meant serving up mac and cheese, two kinds of piping hot cobbler, candied yams, and collard and mustard greens among other things. They provide 200-500 meals a week, mostly covering the costs out of pocket.
“I see the people that I grew up with, that I knew growing up with, walking around homeless, destitute. A lot of them just want food. They just want something hot to put in their bellies,” said Chef Nini.
“We feed people meals that we would sell on the truck or meals that we would cook at home. We give them choices. They have meat choices, starches, vegetable choices, and we serve people with dignity,” said Carter-Hodges.
But the organization is running low of funds and now they need more sponsorships and donors in order to keep the operation alive. They want to partner with the City of Oakland and are planning to meet with Mayor Libby Schaaf this winter.
“There’s a housing crisis, but people never really talk about food. People are without shelter, but they’re also without food. So we served a niche because we provide a hot, nutritious meal,” said Carter-Hodges.
To learn more about the program and donate to Hip Hop F.O.O.D, visit the non-profit organization’s website or call (510) 859-5267.