DC chef carries on family tradition of giving meals, winter wear for holidays

In this event from 2019, Bren Herrera and other volunteers gave out over 700 meals to the needy during her annual Christmas-time event.

A family tradition of giving continues in D.C. with a hope of putting homemade meals in the bellies of hundreds of District residents this Christmas.

Bren Herrera, a D.C. chef and host of Culture Kitchen TV show, was brought up in a family that taught the spirit of gratitude and service.

“It started out when I was a little girl,” Herrera said. “We used to feed the homeless in D.C. as a family. Specifically over by Georgetown underneath the bridge there.”

When she grew up, she moved away and the tradition ceased until she came back to the District. The family then decided it was time the next generation needed to learn the lesson.

“The nephews and nieces were very young at that time, and we wanted to instill in them the spirit of gratitude and service and not just gifts and gimme, gimme, gimme,” she said.

So, they made lunch for about 50 people and went to Franklin Square Park. They gave out food and winter wear to a demographic that, Herrera said, the kids had never been exposed to before.

Soon, it became an annual event. Now in its sixth consecutive year, Bren and Friends is hoping to feed 700 people a hot, home-cooked meal and offer a little company on Christmas Day.

“People who are on the streets, sometimes they are not connected to family and friends. They’re lonely they’re hungry, they’re cold,” she said.

She believes a friendly face and a home-cooked meal is sometimes exactly what they need on Christmas. Herrera believes that personal connection is even more important during the isolation of the pandemic.

“I’m a single woman, so I spent the pandemic by myself, and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do,” Herrera said.

“Yes, my family is here, but there were so many restrictions. Spending by and large the entire day by myself was really difficult, so I can’t even imagine what a person on the streets or a person without a family went through and is still going through.”

The meal she’s serving up will be a buffet-style spread, with tables and linens set up at the parks for people to eat on site, or they can take their dinner to-go.

Dinners will be served on Christmas Day starting between 1 and 1:30 p.m. and ending when the food runs out, which generally is in under two hours.

They will be serving at Franklin Square Park (14th & K St. NW), Columbia Heights Civic Plaza (Park Rd. & Kenyon St.), and this year they have added a site at The Big Chair in Anacostia (1001 V St. SE)

The menu includes:

  • Meatballs
  • Yellow Vegetable Rice
  • Smoked Chicken
  • Stuffing
  • Green beans
  • Buns
  • Cookies

They will also be giving out winter wear to those who need it.

And they could use a little more help either of time or donations.

“We are always welcoming of volunteers on Christmas Day, and we haven’t yet met our budget so people can still donate.”

Michelle Murillo

Michelle Murillo has been a part of the WTOP family since 2014. She started her career in Central Florida before working in radio in New York City and Philadelphia.

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