This is a phrase that we use often to convey the importance of our meal program. Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission is the only place in Philadelphia that serves 3 meals a day, 365 days of the year to anyone who comes through our doors. There are no barriers to sit down in our dining room and at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
The Mission served its first meal back in 1878 when we were founded. Event hen the importance of meet this physical need was understood. 141 years later, as we continue to learn about the importance of nutrition we are beginning to understand the impact hunger and malnutrition can have.
Long Term Effects of Hunger and Malnutrition
When you experience homelessness, hunger can be all-consuming. The pains of an empty stomach can become the driving force for your decision making and food choices are rarely an option.
Many people experiencing long-term chronic homelessness face a cycle of eating too many calories, then not having enough calories, and having no control over their vitamin intake. This combined with health conditions including diabetes, heart disease, or high cholesterol and people begin to face even greater health challenges.
“One New York study suggested that approximately 1/3 of homeless shelter-users had obtained less than 2/3 the recommended number of calories during the previous 24 hours. In contrast, studies of homeless persons in Alabama and Florida found that over 1/3 had evidence of either fat-wasting or muscle-wasting, problems related to excessive food intake. A study of 87 long-term outdoor-dwellers found that they averaged 500 calories less per day than was recommended and that among men, alcohol accounted for 44% of caloric intake.
Despite the high frequency of hunger, homeless persons are at least as likely as other Americans to be overweight. Overweight is defined as a body-mass index of 25.0 to 29.9, which can be calculated after measuring height and weight. Obesity is indicated when the body mass index is 30 or greater. Together, these problems affect 61% of Americans, with 27% of Americans qualifying as obese. Homeless persons are equally if not more likely to have evidence of obesity, with approximately one-third of homeless adults qualifying as obese in two separate studies.” – From Boston’s Health Care for the Homeless Program
The most common sources of malnutrition are related to a lack of vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, folate, Calcium, Magnesium, and Iron. Without these vitamins, people are more susceptible to heart failure, loss of reflexes, acute confusion, fever, dermatitis, anemia, vomiting, and soar throat.
Treatment and Prevention
As the largest and most consistent source of nutrition’s of those experiencing homelessness, Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission takes its role in providing healthy nutrition to every person seriously.
Since 2014, we partner with a dietician from Drexel University to assess its menu and rate the nutritious value of meals provided to guests. Over the past five years, we reduced saturated fats by 25% and sodium by 33%, Additionally, fresh produce, most commonly a salad, was added to accompany each lunch or dinner served. In collaboration with PHMC this year, we are working toward eliminating all trans fats, serving whole grains, and reducing the amount of sugar served in each meal.
Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission also hosts health services that provide necessary screenings for chronic health conditions on a weekly basis
Growing Fresh Foods
In partnership with the Asian Arts Initiative, we launched the Sunday Breakfast Farm with artist Meei Ling Ng. Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission’s shelter residents and Meei Ling built and painted the colorful planter boxes that create an urban farm in our parking lot on Vine Street. Each year, Meei Ling teaches residents how to plant, grow, and harvest fresh food that is then served in our meals. In 2018, the farm produced more than 1,500 pounds of fresh produce includes eggplant, tomatoes, figs, spinach, lettuce, peppers, squash, herbs, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, and blackberries.
Three Ways You Can Help