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Chilis on Wheels, a traveling soup kitchen, dishes out compassion one meal at a time. The organization distributes bowls of chili to homeless individuals in need of a warm meal. However, this isn’t a typical soup kitchen. At Chilis on Wheels, all of the homemade chili is vegan.
Carrera founded the nonprofit right after Thanksgiving 2014 when she wanted to teach her son about the importance of helping one’s community. The pair made 15 vegan chilis and distributed the meals to homeless people at Washington Square Park. Today, Michelle and her son, Ollie, distribute warm vegan chili once a week to those in need – almost 800 meals monthly, but that’s not all. Since their inception, Chilis on Wheels has grown exponentially. A number of new city chapters now provide the vegan meals including Denver, Portland, San Diego, and Puerto Rico.
Spreading Kindness and Compassion to All Beings
Carrera has been an activist her entire adult life, having worked for nonprofits in the fields of adult literacy, immigration, food justice, and reproductive rights. She even founded an animal rescue in her hometown of Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico. She says that this wide spectrum of activism shaped her view of connected struggles and led her to create Chilis on Wheels.
“We believe in treating all living beings with kindness, empathy, and respect regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, language, religion, ability, ethnicity, class, circumstance, environment, level of addiction, or species,” founder Michelle Carrera, says on her website.
Fighting Hunger With Plant-Based Foods
While you might be thinking, wouldn’t those who are hungry simply be grateful for food, regardless of what it’s made with? In some instances, yes, that may be the case. “Most people that we serve are homeless, or food insecure, and are not vegan, just glad to find a warm meal,” Carrera said. However, the organization also receives referrals from social service agencies from clients who have dietary restrictions, including vegetarians, vegans, gluten-free, etc.
Soup kitchens generally do not have options for these diets, making it even more difficult for people in already challenging circumstances. The truth is, dietary restrictions span all walks of life and the choice to commit to making conscious food choices is a deeply personal one; and certainly not one that should be taken from an individual just because they’ve been dealt a difficult hand. In fact, one individual who once relied on Chilis on Wheels because of his vegan diet, is now helping others in a big way.
“Jimmy came to us referred by a social service agency. He is vegan and was homeless, and was told about our vegan chili. He came in and had a chili and decided to volunteer. He came every week after that, and used his experience volunteering with us when applying for jobs. He used us as a reference and was hired. He is now working, and saving up for a place, and still volunteering with us every week. Everyone loves Jimmy, he’s a warm hearted, compassionate, hard working, funny young man with a heart of gold and we are incredibly lucky to have him be a part of the Chilis on Wheels family,” Carrera said.
Reducing Suffering For People, Animals and the Planet
In addition to giving a hearty, warm, home-cooked, and healthful meals to thousands of people, Carrera also strives to raise awareness about animal welfare and the environmental impact of the meat and dairy industries in order to do her small part in reducing animal suffering, harm to our planet, and global hunger.
Carrera, Ollie, and those who make Chilis on Wheels possible, are determined to help others across all species and it is because of their compassion that they’re able to give back to those in need and reduce the suffering of animals (including humans!), in a big way.
Check out what Ollie has to say about feeding the hungry and helping animals in this video:
If you’d like to help Chilis on Wheels feed those in need, please consider supporting the charity by donating or volunteering. Want to help your neighbors in need like Carrera and Ollie? Check out these five ways you can help fight hunger in your community.
All image source: Chilis on Wheels