Ranger Kathryn's Arches

June 2, 2010

Moab Free Meal: what a brilliant idea!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 4:32 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Crockpots line the table after the Moab Free Meal

It’s noon, and an assortment of people from every walk of life begins to converge on a small grassy park-like space near downtown Moab. They trickle in on foot, by bicycle, or in cars. They carry entire backpacks with all their life belongings, or nothing at all. They range from young adults to retired folks; all are waiting for the Moab Free Meal to appear.

Nearly three years ago, a broke and hungry young man moved to Moab and had a vision for feeding people using restaurants’ leftovers. An organization called “Food Not Bombs” had inspired him in his previous city. He began soliciting donated food, which he kept in coolers at his place until it got used, which I believe was once or twice weekly at first. Word got around. Little by little the momentum grew, and food that would have been thrown away was redirected toward the Moab Free Meal. The idea caught on and gained widespread local support. It is now a daily meal, for anyone in the entire town, and completely free.

Attendees arrive by various conveyances

Now, every day of the year, at noon-ish or after, volunteers pull up and set up the two folding tables, crockpots and several 5-gallon buckets of bowls and utensils. Patrons gladly pitch in to help with the set-up, which proceeds in a well-rehearsed fashion. Clean bowls (no disposables!) come out of two buckets at the beginning; hot food beckons on the next low tables; and condiments and utensils await the hungry lunchers at the end. Today, for example, we had delicious leftover vegetarian pizza, a sweet potato casserole, and potato-and-meat-stew. Soda is available for those who want it, as are wrapped dessert treats. Nobody goes away hungry.

Every cross-section of life is represented. On any given day, there might be six to forty people at this meal; today there were about twenty. I sat under a shade tree with an artist/massage therapist, an engineer/river guide, a musician, a radiologist, another park ranger, and a fascinating man named Daniel [zerocurrency.blogspot.com] who has utterly eschewed monetary currency for nearly a decade. (I dare you to try to imagine freeing your life from money in any form. Mind-boggling.)

I think this should be called the Networking Tree

All it took is one man with a vision. This meal is a win-win for everyone involved; it saves countless buckets of food from being thrown away, feeds hungry stomachs, and creates fabulous opportunities for networking among attendees under the shade trees. I exchanged phone numbers with a few individuals whose skills/talents/abilities/connections may be useful, like the man who may be able to help me find a free bike to acquire and fix up, or someone who has connections with Grand Canyon river raft trips. I’d never have met them without the Moab Free Meal.

Every city could do this!


Addendum: sometime in 2011, MFM foundered; I presume it was because of insufficient volunteer labor. It was for a time resurrected in some other iteration but does not look like what’s described in the above article. Check at the Moab Information Center (Main St & Center) if you come to town and are looking for this.

Dirty bowls go back into the 5-gallon buckets


  1. i think it would be an interesting challenge to go a day, a week, or a month without spending any money.
    we could all do a day…. but what a bout a week?

    Comment by john — June 3, 2010 @ 8:21 am | Reply

  2. Curiosity and intrigue lured me to your blog with a little guidance from Google. I’m amused to see that one of the “various conveyances” to Free Meal made it into your blog. Reading a few entries in your blog reinforces my first (and second) impression(s) of you as someone who enriches people’s lives with infectious enthusiasm.

    Comment by Pete — June 6, 2010 @ 8:59 am | Reply

    • Thanks, Pete. It kind of oozes out of me and I can’t help it. P.S. I like your recumbent bicycle!

      Comment by kath56ryn — June 8, 2010 @ 9:52 am | Reply

  3. I’m working immediately outside of RMNP, and got to chat with some folks heading down that way, including time in Moab.

    Thanks to this post of yours, I was able to give them a little tidbit of something to look into/forward to in Moab. And they seemed QUITE intrigued.


    Comment by Xtine — June 13, 2010 @ 1:30 pm | Reply

    • Glad to provide the networking! I find myself wishing more communities would take this on; it needs only a few motivated people to succeed. Thanks for posting!

      Comment by kath56ryn — June 13, 2010 @ 2:11 pm | Reply

  4. Hey Kathryn,
    I’m hanging out at Augie’s at we’re making a facebook page for FreeMeal. I lifted one of your pictures – Augie said you wouldn’t mind. If you do mind, let me know and I’ll take it down immediately. Or, if you want to contribute, feel free to find us on Facebook and add more pictures!

    Comment by John Braun — December 1, 2010 @ 5:36 pm | Reply

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