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The Group of Friends Feeding San Diego’s Homeless Population

The Community Plate Initiative begun as a birthday wish and turned into a nonprofit dedicated to providing meals for those in need
Community Plate Initiative
Courtesy of Community Plate Initiative

It all started with a birthday. In the early days of the pandemic, Antonio Torres and a few friends wanted to celebrate one member of the group’s birthday while also doing something good in a troubling time.

So, together, they decided to spend the day serving the homeless. “We gave out 80 meals the first time, made some good soup, and were like, ‘Why don’t we do it again—and again and again?’” Torres says. “We just never stopped.”

They continued serving homeless San Diegans weekly for several months, cooking at a now-shuttered church kitchen in the East Village, before officially branding their efforts as Community Plate Initiative. They became a nonprofit and moved their home base to The Big Kitchen Café in Golden Hill. Torres serves as the organization’s president. 

“We all live in the area, so we’re close to the people there. [Big Kitchen’s] owner, Judy Forman, had already let us cook there a few times, and she was more than willing to offer her space up because she’s always been a community activist,” Torres says. 

And the people of Community Plate Initiative know their way around a kitchen. A couple members have worked at The Big Kitchen Café over the years, and vice president Robert Revell mans the grill at San Diego institution Mister A’s. Each week, the core members and volunteers cook each dish from scratch using healthy ingredients. The organization even lists the recipes on its website. 

“We try to make sure that we would want to eat something like that ourselves,” Torres says. 

Speaking of Mister A’s, the iconic restaurant has been among Community Plate Initiative’s biggest supporters. The restaurant hosted a Giving Tuesday fundraiser for Community Plate Initiative and has named the nonprofit the beneficiary of its upcoming inaugural Mister A’s Golf Tournament on May 8. 

“They’ve helped us more than they even realize,” Torres says. “As soon as we got our [nonprofit] status, they were more than willing to pitch in.”

For more on the Mister A’s Golf Tournament, visit their website here.

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