It was the most simple meal they could have offered, but it would be the first of many thousands.
More than 56 years ago, the Brothers of St. John of God spooned out generic corn flakes and powdered milk for some of the first Cuban exiles to arrive in a strange land with no food to eat and nowhere to go.
The brothers would go on to found Camillus House, which today serves more than 1,500 meals a day to Miami-Dade’s poor and homeless. It also provides shelter and social programs for thousands trying to get back on their feet. They have even helped put people through culinary school.
Now, Miami-Dade diners can feed the organization that has fed so many others in the most apt way possible — with a new dining program whose proceeds benefit Camillus House.
Just as Miami Spice ends, Culinary Community for Camillus House begins. For the first time, 16 restaurants will offer Spice-like fixed-price menus from Oct. 1 through Thanksgiving for $25, with 5 percent of each meal going to Camillus House.
Culinary Community for Camillus House may not yet have the 243 restaurants that participated in Miami Spice, but it’s a start.
“You can buy a meal for yourself or a loved one and know that meal helps feed someone who is homeless,” said Sam Gil, Camillus House’s vice president of marketing.
The participating restaurants — which include Barceloneta, Jamie DeRosa’s Izzy’s Fish & Oyster, and all three locations of Allen Susser’s Café at Books & Books — will offer two-course lunches and/or dinners. A full list is available online.
The program comes as Miami Spice ends but before the tourist season begins in earnest, so it can help keep a restaurant full, Susser said.
“It’s the same idea as what Miami Spice has done for the community,” Susser said. “Spice drives a lot of traffic to the restaurants. And if you can get a new diner to eat your food, they’ll become a regular.”
Camillus House has high hopes for its restaurant deal, Gil said. They hope success this first year will lead to twice as many restaurants participating next fall.
For now, Gil said, it also helps raise awareness of needs of the homeless and poor beyond Thanksgiving and holiday season, when most of the community’s giving occurs.
“We’re feeding the homeless the other 364 days of the year, too,” Gil said. “There are still people who are going hungry in Miami. … This is a great opportunity to help us and enjoy a nice meal.”
Culinary Community for Camillus House
What: Sixteen restaurants will offer Miami Spice-like fixed-price lunch and/or dinner menus for $25, with 5 percent of each meal going to Camillus House.
When: Oct. 1 through Nov. 23.
More info: A full list of restaurants is at cc4camillus.org.