Occupy Memphis: Running the Food Tent

Occupy Memphis camp at downtown's Civic Center Plaza

For the two women behind the food tent at Occupy Memphis, cooking dinner for 50 people every evening takes creative kitchen skills and a little help from Google.

“I have to go on the internet to figure out proportions for recipes,” said Alicia Rumbarger, who is handling most of the cooking along with friend Sharon Adams.  “Today we made squash casserole with pinto beans.”

The women try to get a hot meal downtown by 6 p.m. that accommodates vegans and vegetarians but doesn’t scrimp on protein. “We’ve had to teach ourselves how to cook this way, so we are using lots of beans,” Rumbarger said.

Sometimes, they make two versions of the same dish, such as their Mexican casserole with roasted Poblano peppers, garlic, tomatoes, olives and black beans. “I had to throw in some grated cheddar cheese in one of the casseroles, because it didn’t seem Mexican without it,” Rumbarger said, laughing.

In addition to their own time and resources, the women are dependent on contributions of groceries or money.  Groceries can be dropped off at the food tent downtown, and donations can be made on the  Facebook page for Occupy Memphis.

“We can use anything and everything, except rice,” Rumbarger said. “We’ve got plenty of rice and we’ve got a 25-pound bag of pinto beans.”

Her more specific suggestions include large cans of tomatoes, black beans, pasta, cheese, bread and any kind of fresh produce. Prepared food also is welcomed, especially for breakfast or lunch, Rumbarger said: “Coffee or something hot in the morning is always welcome.”

In addition to feeding the occupiers, evening meals serve some of downtown’s homeless. “We feed them, and they help keep the site clean,” Rumbarger said. “So maybe we will make a difference, one way or another.”

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