How Billie Eilish’s Mom Is Helping Unhoused Youth in LA Find Identity Through Vegan Food

According to the 2022 Greater Los Angeles Youth Count, approximately 3,000 youth and youth ages 18 to 24 experience homelessness on any given night across Los Angeles County.

For the past 35 years, My Friend’s Place, a local nonprofit, has worked to empower and uplift homeless youth throughout Los Angeles. Just last year, My Friends Place served 700 young people, providing them with basic needs such as food, showers and housing support, as well as employment services, education sessions, creative workshops and more.

And, thanks in large part to a nonprofit partnership with Support + Feed, My Friend’s Place now makes plant-based meals available to homeless youth.

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Created by Billie Eilish’s mother Maggie Baird at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Support + Feed’s mission is to nourish frontline workers and vulnerable populations while supporting local vegan restaurants.

On May 13, as part of its 35th Anniversary Gala, My Friend’s Place will honor Support + Feed with a gourmet, plant-based dinner that will highlight both organizations’ commitment to empowering underserved communities and making nutritious, vegan meals accessible to all.

The gala will feature a plant-based, family-style dinner with wine pairings provided by Vegan Wines. Provided by Good Gracious! event, the food menu will include spicy vodka penne pasta; polenta topped with sweet potatoes and a medley of tomatoes, kale, onions and sweet peas; smoky, three-bean stew; and served with roasted cauliflower tofu tapenade. Strawberry rhubarb galette, flourless chocolate cake and lemon cupcakes are on the dessert menu.

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Over the years, My Friend’s Place has raised millions of dollars through its annual gala to help the nonprofit provide critical services aimed at helping young people on their journey to holistic wellness and a permanent exit from homelessness.

Bringing vegetarian meals to homeless youth

Support + Feed’s partnership with My Friends Place first began in 2020, during a time of fear and anxiety brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We have a very vibrant community of support here [at My Friend’s Place]”Executive director Heather Carmichael told VegNews. “Obviously, at this peak, it becomes less vibrant, [especially in terms of] Community members are coming and treating our youth to special events of food and celebration.”

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Fortunately, Support + Feed was there to step in “Support + Feed is pulled with the awesome Monty’s Good Burger food truck.” [Monty’s] Started making fresh vegan burgers for our youth, fresh off the grill,” says Carmichael. “We had really yummy food and amazing company. out of the dark [COVID-19]Suddenly there was this air of care, celebration and nourishing food.”

Since then, Support + Feed My Friends Place has continued to provide vegan options to youth, most recently from Sage Plant-based Bistro & Brewery, a vegan restaurant chain with locations throughout Southern California.

Carmichael recalls that two young men from My Friends Place were particularly excited to try Sage. “Being vegan is a central part of their identity, and they were excited that Sage was here,” she says. “At this point in many young people’s lives, they just can’t go to a restaurant, especially one with such a quality, plant-based meal.”

Finding identity through vegan food

Although My Friend’s Place receives, on average, two to four out of fifty youth requests for vegetarian meals per day, the nonprofit emphasizes how empowering youth to make choices helps build identity.

“There are people [here at My Friend’s Place] It’s brilliant to be able to engage people who aren’t vegan, and take them on a food adventure, introduce them to the concept of plant-based food and have a conversation about it. [the cuisine]Carmichael said.

“Adulthood is about developing identity and having the experience of being able to learn what you like and what you don’t,” she says. “Often, poverty takes it away from a young man when he is in crisis.”

With Support + Feed, My Friend’s Place is better suited to meet the dietary needs of young people. Prior to their relationship with Support + Feed, the nonprofit’s staff often cringed when they received requests for meatless meals. And more often than not, that results in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

“More and more, younger people are coming with very individual preferences and dietary restrictions,” explains Carmichael. “Young people are now saying, ‘I’m vegetarian. Do you have anything I could use?’ And now, we have this amazing partnership with Support + Feed.”

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“[They’re helping] Our youth feel respected and seen,” she says. “Young people experiencing homelessness often feel invisible, so meals designed to nourish them are profound in building relationships with our young people.”

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