Dining out Thursday may help to feed the hungry, homeless

Event to benefit St. Joseph Diner

Thirty-seven restaurants will donate 10 percent of their earnings Thursday toward the St. Joseph Diner, which feeds the hungry, homeless and homebound in the Lafayette area.

There are more restaurants participating this year than any year since the Dine for the Diner fundraiser began in 2000, said Sarah Clement, development director for the Lafayette Catholic Service Centers.

“We do have a few more restaurants than last year,” Clement said. “We hope to raise closer to $12,000 to $15,000 this year, because we’ve seen an increase in the number of people we are serving each day.”

In recent years, Dine for the Diner has raised around $10,000 for St. Joseph’s, which serves more than 300 meals to hungry, homeless and homebound people every day, Clement said.

But the event is not just about raising money, she said. It is also about fostering a sense of community and raising awareness of those who are hungry in this area.

“During Dine for the Diner, Acadiana works together to end hunger by doing something we Cajuns do very well, eat!” she said.

One of the most successful new traditions for the event is the food truck roundup, featuring mobile favorites such as the Chef Gregory Food Truck, Pelon’s Mexican Hot Dogs and Viva La Waffle.

“Brick and mortar establishments were participating and they reached out to see if the food trucks wanted to join,” said the bearded owner of Viva La Waffle, Collin Cormier, turning down Bob Marley’s “Exodus” as he leaned out of the window of his food truck.

Cormier said it is the second year the nomadic street cooks will participate in Dine for the Diner.

He said the food industry owes a civic debt to the towns and neighborhoods they operate in.

“Restaurants, food trucks, whatever it may be, make a living off the community,” Cormier said.

“If you don’t feed back into that, then it just erodes it. They support us, and we support them.”

The St. Joseph Diner was created as a soup kitchen in 1983.

Since then, it has expanded to feed families living on the street or in cars, the men living in Lafayette Catholic Service Centers’ men’s housing programs and homebound seniors.

In addition to serving meals, the volunteers at the diner recently began a vegetable garden, comprising 18 raised beds where they grow carrots, onions, turnips and other vegetables, which they serve at the diner.

Clement said the diner also serves as a community center, encouraging those involved to form relationships with the people they help and inspiring those it helps to volunteer.

“People feel comfortable to not only partake in a meal but to give back,” she said. “We have so many people who not only receive the meals that the diner provides but who work in the Diner every day as a volunteer. It is a community where people find peace and build relationships with others.”

For the complete list of participating restaurants, visit www.catholicservice.org/dineforthediner.