Eating (Down &) Out

By Lin Sampson

There’s free food available in Cape Town if you know where to go. Lin Sampson gives them star ratings.

Service Dining Rooms###

Venue: Canterbury Street.

Time: They serve lunch every day. Queues start at 11.30, women and men separately.

Food: Due to some stalwart donors like Woolworths there can be nice surprises like fruit and salad but mainly soya mince, rice and lentil soup. An occasional squirt of tomato sauce adds vim.

Vibe: As the oldest free community eating in Cape Town, it benefits from experience and a wonderful social worker who runs the place and insists on good manners. “I hand each person a spoon and wait for a thank you.”

Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk - Saint Stephen's###

Venue: 98 Bree Street, Cape Town City Center.

Time: Monday, 6pm (Get there early).

Food: Half a white roll (very dry), a slice of industrial strength brown bread, pasta and soya (enough to keep the wolf from the door but might make you want to eat the wolf).

Vibe: Openly proselytizing.
Well organised, queue numbers and strict security. Before you eat you’re required 45 minutes listening to uplifting stories in Christianese about how God loves you, accompanied by some unendurable guitar playing. Those who commit to God are led through a separate doorway to be ‘ministered to’. The heroin addict next to me believes saved people get better grub.


Venue: The Carpenter’s Shop, bottom of Roeland Street.

Time: Sunday morning, 11 am, (breakfast).

Food: Bake beans, scrambled eggs, porridge, bread and two pieces of fruit,

Vibe: Run by lovely young woman, Pat, in memory of her recently dead husband. The queue is respectful. People share food. The supervisor of the Carpenter Shop who says, “I know these people,” keeps a stern eye on anyone who cadges seconds.

Good Hope Christian Centre###

Time: Sunday, 1 am.

Place: ‘White Church’, Clovelly Avenue, Devil's Peak Estate.

Food. Excellent meaty and lentil stew with rice accompanied by an over sweet ‘cool drink’. No bread.

Vibe: Charismatic “Nobody eats until they have listened to the Word.” Forty five minutes of prayers and being told that God can cure everything, even cancer. Hunger stalks the room. Bouncy music from a small crackly hi-fi. Pastor who looks like George Clooney. The rules are no sleeping and no intoxication.

Ladles Of Love###

Venue: Opposite the Argus building in St. George’s Mall, Cape Town City Center.

Time: Tuesdays, 5,30pm.

Food: Delicious soup, pea and lentil and dare I say, a meat base, comes in nice container with excellent bread. No prayers.

Vibe: Quietly efficient, people line up in order, wash their hands in a big bucket of soapy water. This is a private initiative run by Danny, a Buddhist, who owns a restaurant in Adderley Street. “The Buddhist tradition is called Seva. Give of yourself, ask nothing in return.”

Mom In Park###

Venue: Adderley Street, end of Government Avenue.

Time: Thursday, 7 pm.

Food: Homemade lentil and bean soup and a chunk of bread, given with love.

Vibe: Venetia (“My father worked for Venetian Blinds”) is the eponymous mom, a byword in the homeless communities. The first snow has appeared on the Hottentots Holland mountains and Venetia is late. “But she never, never lets us down," says a homeless man in a blanket. Her arrival, her open handed prayer to God, (“Please man help me with my daughter who is a druggie”) her amazing charismatic strength, brings joy and hope. Coco the flamboyant transsexual, well known in the homeless community, is on point in his pink turban, gold cross and broken sunglasses balanced on his nose.

This is a featured story by renowned author Lin Sampson and is an account of her experience eating with the destitute people of Cape Town. If you would like to get involved with any of the organisations follow the links.