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Michelle Obama serves food to D.C. poor and homeless, but...

First Lady Michelle Obama serves food to homeless people at Miriam's Kitchen in Washington DC 3-5-09

First Lady Michelle Obama showed up Thursday as a surprise and welcome volunteer at Miriam's Kitchen, a soup kitchen for homeless poor people not far from the White House.

She brought with her some food donated by White House staff.

The first lady served up mushroom risotto and broccoli to a long line of homeless men and women during part of herFirst Lady Michelle Obama volunteers as a food server at Miriam's Kitchen a soup kitchen for poor homeless in Washington DC 3-5-09 lunch hour and in these photos poses for a picture by one homeless diner obviously excited to be in the first lady's presence.

Obama said she hoped her service would cause other Americans to volunteer to help the less fortunate in their own communities.

And, of course, such images of need might also help build support for her husband's economic and healthcare reform agenda, although a Miriam's spokeswoman said their average "guest" has been homeless since about the time Barack Obama was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004.

Miriam's is a privately funded soup kitchen about seven blocks from the White House that has 1,200 volunteers and serves about 300, mainly men, each morning. Our colleague Mark Silva has more on the volunteer work in the Swamp here.

Both of these news photos were widely distributed across the country and even around the world.

It doesn't detract from the first lady's generous gesture or the real needs she seeks to highlight to ask two bothersome journalistic questions about these news photos:

If this unidentified meal recipient is too poor to buy his own food, how does he afford a cellphone?

And if he is homeless, where do they send the cellphone bills?

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photos: Associated Press (top); Getty Images (bottom).

Comments () | Archives (418)

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I am unemployed trying to get by on a few hundred a month and yes I have a prepaid cell phone, but it is just that a phone - which I turn on - only on the days when I believe it will be worth it, as I must pay the $1.00 just to use it along with the 10 cents a minute for use. It does not take pictures, play itunes, text, etc, etc. If the man in the picture is a volunteer and not a client of this charity, it should have been more clear in the description. If he is indeed homeless he should be using a cheaper phone and not bother taking the picture of the wife of the false messiah who promised us "CHANGE" which is quickly coming to mean that the only people who will have jobs are those with political connections in states where the government in its beneficience decides who to "stimulate,"
while those of us in the Northeast will be freezing to death since will won't be able to pay our uility bills, because of the idiotic proposed tax on energy brought to us by blind liberal fascists, who have decided that even though we are sitting on top of enough coal to power our nation for centuries, it is not "green" enough for their socialist agenda!. California cannot break off and wash into the pacific ocean soon enough for me, otherwise they will soon be bulldozing our dying cities and towns to build a pipeline across the country to tap into our water, since they have not been able to steal enough of it from their neighboring states to keep up their green lifestyle!! And oh by the way I am using my sister's computer to keep up with our apocalyptic times, just to inform any haters!

Yeah, homeless but with a cell phone that takes picutes. Hmmm. Let's face it. People who WANT TO WORK will work and people who get paid NOT TO WORK won't work. I know of one girl who didn't speak English well enough to understand people who were ordering jewelry. They had to pay for the jewelry and then their order was picked up and brought to them. So their name had to be put on the gift bags so they'd get the right items. How did she solve this problem of not understanding their names and how to spell them? She put mathematical symbols on the bags and the slips so that they matched up when the jewelry order was picked up. She used circles and squares and triangles, etc. So for a person to be homeless for a short period of time is forgiveable. But long term homelessness is being paid for by YOUR AND MY TAX DOLLARS and we won't stop working but the homeless person has a lot less dignity and impaired mental health than the person under whatever circumstances, solves the problems of work.

nuff said.

when i was in afghanistan a few years ago everyone there had a cell phone, i mean everyone and they are close to the poorest nation on earth. diffrent world these days huh malcom?

Having a cell phone doesn't mean your exempt from being hungry. A job seeker needs a phone, so do people who need to communicate. Nonetheless, hungry people don't need to be homeless to show up and eat. it is good that opportunities exist in some places for people to eat. It is unselfish of the first lady to show and serve people.

She's a total phony. First she disses the US and then they do a total makeover of her. They hid her away during the whole election. Now they bring her out looking like Suzie Homemaker.

Well we aren't falling for it! Sell this propaganda down in Venezuela with your Socialist friends!


AM aka Pinche Gabacho

You live in the world of six figures, fully funded pensions not to mention JOBS! and you dare QUIBBLE about a phone? Aye!

Wboyz need to sit down calm down and swallow down (a valium?) their bile. GET A LIFE!

It's so arrogant to assume someone at the homeless shelter is undeserved just because they have a cell phone. Sadly, it also means the writer lives under a rock.

Nothing proves this guy IS homeless, maybe he was a volunteer?

Pre-paid phones are for the poor, and there is an urban economy that works beyond your comprehension. Sad they give you a spot in a major paper to be so sheltered.

First do we know if he is a homeless person? Yes in the report it says that Mrs Obama is serving long lines of homeless men and women, but is that guy one of the homeless folks?

Second like everyone has said there are prepaid phones which like T-Mobils have prepaid package phone that are sold at any local 7/11 or Walgreen or Walmart stores.

Third do you know how long this man has been homeless? A day, a week, a month, a year? Is he one of the folks who is getting back on his feet by doing odd jobs because most likely the first things someone do when they have besides buying something to eat is get a phone.

There many question you should have asked before the question you asked.

It would have been nice if the first lady had brought some $11 a pound Kob beef that was served at the White House party Wednesday night. Since she and the President tout re-distribution of wealth, Michelle should have brought some of their wealth to the homeless. It sounds like a pretty nice meal for a homeless shelter.

Guess it doesn't take much of an education to be a reporter. Of course there are pre-paid phones for a little of nothing, or maybe he found a phone that only works for pictures. My question is "whose electricity is he stealing to charge the phone? Maybe he lives in a shelter.

WOW, there are a lot of bleeding hearts on this site. No offense to those who are generous enough to help others, regardless of their position, but if you are taking a handout for food and you have enough money to afford a cell phone then you have your priorities mixed up. Food is a basic need, cell phones are not! I couldn't live with myself if i was accepting food that others probably needed more than myself. People in this country are ridiculous.

Thanks for all your thoughts on the cell phone - you are all kind enough to remind me to go pay my late phone bill at the AT&T shop with there touch screen machine - they will reconnect my phone, no fuss. Let us not forget the noble gesture the First Lady Obama is doing to take time to serve food to the poor in her neighborhood. Should we all do likewise?

United States is in such a bad way that everything done is always labled as bad. I think the first lady is giving everyone the key to pulling back up. HELP and HELP each other. It is bad for everyone. Look even the Rich is asking for the poor aide HUMMM. to have a cellphone does not mean you are not homeless and it certainly does not mean cause he is black he stole it. No one notice he have clothes and a coat on. does that mean he is a theif or not homeless. cellphone, get real and get it together thats what the 1st lady is saying, no one is better and all need help.

On my phone I receive a notice by the phone company electronically. I have no paper bill sent to my home. Many phone service give the option if you would like to receive a paper bill, e-mail bill, or text message of your bill.

If you are homeless you also can get a free internet account. All you will have to do is sign up online using any computer at your local library.

I've lived in India for 4 years and there are plenty of people here who earn well under 100 dollars a month and have a cell phone. Here's what I see: it's the poor man's land line, computer, even ipod, all wrapped up in one. Nobody complains anymore when a working class (meaning dirt poor by US standards) has a cell phone here. It makes so much sense.

Why begrudge poor people a little stuff?

They gave 700 billion ++ to bankers and people got a problem with a cell phone ... If they gave the cell phone to a banker, nobody would care. Strange ... strange ...

PrePaid cel phones do not allow you to take pictures. that is not a prepaid cel phone. Most of these poor and so-called homeless people live better than the working poor. so many of the "single Moms" have great cel phones, they have the latest hair dos and clothing. and they get their nails done every week. How many of the hard working poor people trying to feed their children have the luxuries these people on WELFARE have???

Maybe Michelle should have brought one of her TWO chefs. (She and Barack concluded that one chef just wasn't enough, so they hired their personal chef from Chicago to work at the White House, too. Your tax dollars hard at work.)

Yeah, JS. "No offense to those who are generous enough to help others......."


Who are you to criticize?

Had you read the comments you'd easily be able to see how someone can have a cellphone, be homeless, and need help getting food without having your priorities mixed up.

Cellphone - Cost = Donated

Phone charges = prepaid $5 - $25

Rent = $500 - $800

1 meal = $3 - $5

Trying to get a job without a way for an employer to contact you = idiotic

Now do you get it, you moron?

Gee... I bet she went there for the free fried chicken. Come on Michelle, have a little class already.

I simply love to hear affluent (lucky) Americans slip on their entitlement ignorant tongues.
It is so typical that this form of journalism starts out on what appears to be on a positive storyline that nose dives into insignificant details overly expressed in an attempt to dampen the goodness of the individual involved in creating a wonderful story.

Michelle Obama is a true American who doesn't judge her brother because he is in need and lacks.

The author of this BLOG, Mr. Malcom on the otherhand is a piece of WORK!

I can't believe this guy is living off the charity of others when he could just sell that phone and get a house.

I wonder how any of the people who can't resist spouting off at the mouth about how this dude should ditch the cellphone and get a job think he's going to find out if anyone calls him back for an interview once he takes their advice?

Due to B. Hussein O.'s "handling" of the economy, more people who currently own a cellphone will be standing in soup lines. This is what Hussein wants: ultimately, it will lead to the destruction of the United States and the imposition of either a radical socialist regime or a radical Islamic regime.

Yeah, sure -- cheap pre-paid cellphones really have picture-taking capacity. C'mon, people.

Listen up people!!! Use your brains....its 2009, the economy is horrible, and people are losing their homes by the minute. Homelessness is no longer a foreign concept. Being homeless doesn't mean you can't have personal possessions. Everyone who is homeless today may not have been homeless in 2008. Give me a break...its a cell phone for cryin' out loud. My 10 ten year old got one for Christmas. I paid $29 for it and it has a camera; I purchased 200 minutes for $30. That's 1 day's pay as a day laborer to maintain a landline for a permanent job. You people that think that because a person is down on their luck, they should have nothing...keep living and pray to God that your blessing never run out because only then will you understand.

maybe the Obama's are getting us ready for the soup kitchens of the future Great Depression with Barack signing this "stimulus" bill.

All of you people justifying this are absolutely ridiculous. Cell phones are a luxury not a necessity. I bet this guy can even check email and browse the web on his phone. And if you think it's a relative or friend paying the bill, wouldn't they be a much nicer and more loving relative/friend if they provided meals for the poor guy. GIVE ME A BREAK YOU NAIVE IDIOTS.

The cheapest 'pay-as-you-go' phones DO NOT take pictures!

Hey.........It just MIGHT be a camera (??).

Right, because it's really easy to STOP being homeless without a job. And it's really easy to GET a job without having a phone with which you can be reached by potential employers. Moron.

And do they not have pre-paid cell phones in LA?


a lot of you making mean remarks or homeless too, you just live with your mother or some other family member muching from them and thinking you or better, you don't even have your own computer.

I know a bunch of homeless people, not a single cell phone in the bunch. And a phone with a camera that you can send a photo to where? The computer in your non-existent home you don't have.

Homeless has a new definition in the US of A.

I would say that we need a virus that will wipe out 80 % of humans to clean out some serious scuz bags and vermin on our planet....

I don't get you is the first lady of the United States volunteering at a soup kitchen for the NEEDY and all you can talk about is a blasted cell phone?? Are you republicans or what?

Doesn't it feel like people are just grasping for straws for things to complain about re: Obama? It's like after 8 years of having a total buffoon as President, they can't come to terms with the fact that we have a brilliant man as our President now.

why cant he be the helping out just took a photo op , why do you people always have some ignorant derogatory comment about the dumbest stuff , what is wrond with you people is your life that miserable all you can do is make comments about someone you dont know nothing about .
you all should have been that quick making all these statements when bush was in the house putting us were we are today .maybe we would have all these homeless people and unemployment you all quick to pass judgement get your raggedy a,, out there and make a difference in someones life instead of wasting time on tedious comments
i challenge all of you negatives to write what can you do to help the homeles help this economy help x-offenders
helping your neighbors,take all that mouth and energy and put it to good use with a positive .

I can't believe there are homeless people in Washington DC, the epicenter of liberal compassion. Say it ain't so. Did she bring along some of Barack's $100 kobe steaks?

Impeach Obama!! or is it Soetoro? I'm glad to see Hugo Chavez is finally happy with us. Mrs Obama with your husband Barry Soetoro, why don't you go down to Cuba and help serve some socialism down there !! What is it going to take for you Obamabots to WAKE UP? This man is destroying America!!! The only place hiring is the government!! "bigger government = less freedom". Obama happy he saved 25 police officer jobs while we lost close to 690,000 in one month!! What a JOKE!!! Look for a Tea Party near you!!

I'll be surprised if they even post this. . .

C'mon-you are so politically over-correct I could scream. This due has a picture taking able phone-they don't og for $5 or $10-mine is 49.99 motnh and it does not take photos! So get a clue!! This guy is getting a "free lunch" .Just like the panhandlers with their new tennies-not salvation army-better then i wear with a real fiulltime job. And smoking cigarettes at $4 a pack!

Shouldn't food expense come before cell phones-whether we pay for the food or the homelss due!

Your replies ar BUM answers -really.

This article is about the First lady helping in the community, instead I see ridiculous comments about homeless people with cellphones.. We don't really know if the man who took the picture is homeless, he could of volunteered or worked there and possibly took a picture of someone who he admires, someone who truly care about his well being let him have a cellphone, big fucking deal, get over it. He have a cellphone. However, I am so happy, that Michelle is being such a inspiration and being such a delight in the community and stepping up going beyond being a first lady.

My question is whether she served lobster and caviar as she has been so accustomed to ordering when staying at hotels or if she served the $100/lb beef that Obama eats for his meals.

I bet 5 dollars he isnt homeless.

Please some reporter look this man up and do a story.

OMG....what a cheap shot....duh! My sister-in-law cannot afford a cellphone bill so she has a pay as you go and buys minutes as she can. duh! 3 adult children are struggling grad students having a terrible time financially....I have all 3 of them on a family plan for $ 9.99 each and guess where the bill goes? Don't make sarcastic assumptions until you get out in the real world of the homeless, poor and working poor!

"Miriam's is a privately funded soup kitchen..."

Does Mrs. Obama realize that "privately funded" soup kitchens are funded by corporations and individuals, (many of whom are classified as "wealthy" by her husband) and that his budget proposes to limit deductions for charitable contributions? What will happen when people and corporations stop funding this soup kitchen because their taxes have dramatically gone up and the incentive to give is not worth it for them?? Oh I forgot!....the government can take over running the soup kitchen! (more inefficiently and at greater expense, of course)

It is unbelieveable to me that some of the postings on here are so negative! Why don't we all grow up and realize that our world is in a crisis and people are hurting everywhere! I don't care if that man has a cell phone.....good for him! It may be as many have stated his lifeline. We need to remember to help our fellow man if we can, not kick them when they are down. The Golden Rule might be good to remember also in this day and age: Do unto others as you would have done unto you! So for the one who said he has a nicer phone than me....I bet your sleeping in your own bed tonight and not a shelter! If I am wrong then I am sorry. If not Shut up woman and be thankful for what you do have and pray to God that it don't get taken away from you and we see you in the soup kitchens.

Thats the picture of the meaning of "FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE" before you cooked and feed your family now "BIG BROTHER OBAMA" will do it for "YOU"

VJ Machiavelli

Grow up people!

Why isn't Mrs. Obama wearing a hairnet...

this does speak for what an amazing country we live in! not only are there many people willing to help our brothers and sisters in need (with little regard for what the bigoted and selfish might say) but a homeless individual can manage to aquire a cel phone and morons are afforded a public forum from which to attempt to destroy these efforts and/or further disenfranchise the disenfranchised! i hope this guy gets 1/10th of the air time that Joe the Plumber did and maybe we will all know his story...and maybe, just maybe, some loud mouth jerks will consider apologizing for not checking their facts before spewing their BS all over the internet. you don't write for Limbaugh do you?

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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