Food News

Saturday's Food Update: New Southern Smoke Initiative, Where to Get Free Meals

If you need a hot meal, don't hesitate.

By Timothy Malcolm February 20, 2021

Plenty of Houstonians are still lacking power, and many more are without clean water as the city recovers from last week's winter storm. Here's an update on meal distribution efforts and an opportunity for assistance for those in the hospitality industry.

Chef Chris Shepherd is the founder of the Southern Smoke Foundation.

Southern Smoke Establishes New Relief Fund

The Southern Smoke Foundation, the Houston non-profit known for helping members of the hospitality industry during emergencies and tragedies, announced Saturday the creation of a fund specific to people impacted by last week's winter storm. Industry workers, including restaurant employees, farmers, ranchers, and growers, can apply.

Visit to see the Texas Winter Storm Relief Fund. Those in need of emergency funds can apply here; money through donations is being earmarked especially for this effort. You can also donate to the fund by clicking this link.

Southern Smoke, which was founded by James Beard award-winning chef Chris Shepherd, has distributed more than $6.5 million in funds since its creation in 2015. It became a necessary aid for food and drink workers impacted by Hurricane Harvey in 2017, and it grew in national stature in 2020 as the primary source of one-time financial assistance for people affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Thirteen Distributing Meals

One of Houston's newest restaurants, Thirteen, is distributing 3,000 free, hot meals to people starting at 3 p.m. today (Saturday) at 1911 Bagby St.

The meal distribution will be a drive-thru service and will continue until 6 p.m. People who can't make it to the restaurant can text 346-857-9617 to request delivery.

Thirteen, which is scheduled for a full public opening on March 4, is owned by former Houston Rockets star and now Brooklyn Nets star James Harden. 

"James cares so much about the people here," said Rosea Grady, Thirteen’s general manager. "As soon he saw what was happening, he called, and we started getting everything together for the dinners. It’s been really challenging this week to get supplies with the winter storms, so we’re grateful to be able to help James feed a few thousand people this weekend."

Houston Food Bank Mass Distribution

The Houston Food Bank, teaming up with the Houston Independent School District, will distribute free, hot meals to people from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday at NRG Stadium. 

People interested in getting a meal should drive to the Blue Lot, Gate 9, at NRG Stadium (8510 Kirby Dr) on Sunday morning. Gates will open at 7 a.m. and traffic that lines up before that time will be asked to keep moving. This will be a drive-thru-only distribution, and water is not guaranteed.

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