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Bracken’s Kitchen

As I considered my contribution to this month’s newsletter, I browsed some older issues looking for non-horse related content. I wanted to be sure that not every article needs to be centered around our horses (although that is what our club is all about). I found a few past newsletters where members submitted human interest or family memoirs because their heart led them to share special memories or persons, or to share a special interest with others. I’d like to share an experience with you that did not involve my horse but did show me a side of volunteerism and giving back that I had not yet experienced.


My story this month is not about horses. Not directly, anyway, but I believe that a love of horses, and all animals for that matter, requires compassion for all living things and often takes us to a place we don’t expect. Or to a place we did not see ourselves at. We can say that scientifically, morally, spiritually, and on so many other levels that humans are at the top of the food chain. That cannot be disputed, although sometimes animals demonstrate more love and heart than us mere humans. When humans fail us, our pets can keep us going. Even when we fail them, they stand by us. I recently had my faith in the human element restored.

To thrive, we all need air and food. Air is free, food is not. There is a huge “food insecurity” in Orange County. Thousands of families do not have the funds to adequately feed themselves and their children. There are resources, yes, but often families do not know about them, are unable obtain them or don’t know where to go to tap into them. I was recently introduced to an amazing organization that’s sole 

mission is to reach out to and provide high end quality meals to families, schools, veterans, and individuals. I was blown away as this is a culture I have not really been exposed to. There is enough to do volunteering in the safety and advocacy of animals, and never enough time as the need never ends.

I work for an amazing hospital system, Memorial Care Health, whose bottom line may be the revenue cycle, but has a huge community and philanthropic outreach. Healthcare providers often have an extra measure of compassion that is identified by the work they do. It does not stop when their shift is over. So this month I found myself working side by side with one hundred of Memorial Care’s managers and leaders, stuffing snack bags provided by Bracken’s Kitchen. Now these bags were not for the needy, they were for a Memorial Care event to be attended by ten thousand employees, physicians, volunteers and some family members. By purchasing the snacks from Bracken’s Kitchen and using volunteers to fill them, we were able to help with the chain of feeding those in need. We witnessed the operation and met some of the people who are so instrumental in feeding people in Orange County and beyond. Having never visited a food kitchen, it was not what I expected. The infrastructure was amazing
and the operation runs like a well-oiled wheel. There is a food truck affectionately called Betsy where meals are prepared and served on the road as some people cannot get to the kitchen, which to me resembled more of a restaurant’s kitchen. I know, I’ve worked in a few. 


Bracken’s Kitchen is the inspiration of Bill Bracken, a renowned Chef whose 35 year career took him to high end venues like the Four Season’s Hotel in Newport Beach. At a time when well known chefs were entering the “rock star” status, Bill was not going to give up on his vision of making a difference in people’s lives through food. He does that, not just by feeding them, but through
a Culinary Training program he has established. Bracken’s Kitchen uses food recovery program, partnering with generous food industry corporations harvesting quality food that would otherwise be in the landfills. 

With that, and repurposed supplies, they prepare the meals in the kitchen and in the truck. It is an innovative and effective way to fulfill the mission of a dedicated visionary and change the lives of so many people.
I am so glad I accepted the call to assist that day. It wasn’t life changing but definitely raised my awareness of the hunger in our country and what a handful of compassionate people are doing to change that and make it sustainable. This is where I make the connection. There is no greater happiness than to give back. The recipient may have four legs or they may have two. I’ll modify the cliché here and say “You can’t change all the lives, but you can change one life at a time”.

Braken3          Braken4

Debbie Kelly
Trail Boss
Saddleback Canyon Riders
Equestrian Trails Inc., Corral 357