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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).

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You can talk all you want about Pay-as-you-go plans, but when I see what looks like a Blackberry, I'm wondering if I'd consider that a good use of my limited resources. It's very apparent that "poverty" in our country means something that is way more luxurious than what the rest of the world considers poverty. And it probably even means that you still have a nicer TV than my 10-yr old set.

if he is homeless where does he charge the phone? Does DC offer free 110v outlets for the homeless to charge thier devices?

if he is homeless where does he charge the phone? Does DC offer free 110v outlets for the homeless to charge thier devices?

I understand that the cell phone is probably a pre-paid.I have one of those too.Good idea for those who are really looking for a job to get out of the predicament they are in. What I wonder is how he charges it up?

I was not so concerned about the homeless guy with the cell phone. What bothered me about this is the fact that it takes 1200 people to serve 300 homeless people. I hope that is not a sign of how Obama's government is going to work.

Someone I care about is alone and sinking deeper and deeper into alcoholism. I would gladly supply him a phone if he would accept it, so that I and others who care could keep in touch.
When I am so blessed, who am I to judge someone else as to whether or not they are "worthy" to receive charity? The reporter who wrote this article obviously feels that he is qualified to judge.

Too much can be read into this, but it is an interesting juxtaposition. As for, these panhandlers, they don't earn anything. They live off of liberal guilt, many want to be seen giving to them, or feel better about themselves giving to them. Most of the panhandlers who ask for money on the streetcorner are buying drugs or booze. Real charity is not as easy as giving a five dollar bill to a bum on the street. It is more like volunteering for a soup kitchen, or sharing in spiritual work with them. Of course, throwing MY money at them is so much easier for the guilty liberal.

seems to me if you have a cell phone you can't be homeless, and if you need food, the food has a hell of a lot more priority than that damn cell phone. isn't it amazing how they have have nothing but a tent and sleeping bags, AND BE CLEAN SHAVING AND WELL GROOMED????? homeless have totally different looks
and DAMN, they don't have any electronics, they barely
have the clothes on their backs. so who are you trying
to kid, maybe the silver spoon obamas need to dole out
some money???? THEIR OWN THAT IS

Amazing to read all of the defendents of the "poor", with every one of the posts saying the same thing. If you can't contribute something new to the site, then don't say anything. Or are you just so intent on getting yourself heard (read), that you don't bother to read the other posts?

We got the message that there are pre-paid cell phones. But if the "poor" are able to purchase a phone and the pre-paid minutes, then that person could have fed him or herself for an entire month.

What could they live on? Top Ramen and peanut butter sandwiches, casseroles that cost $3.00 to make and feed you 4 meals, canned soup & crackers, rice and beans, a baked potato. You know, the stuff that the rest of us working stiffs use to get us by so we can pay our rent or mortgage, while still paying our taxes that pay to support the lowlifes in our communities.

How could a homeless person get contacted for a job without a cell phone? They could have messages taken by that nice "family member" that you say paid for the cell phone. Then use your 2 little feet to check with whomever would be taking messages for you, at least twice a day, go to a phone booth and return the potential employer's call. Do you all believe that cell phones have always existed? The homeless have always been around. How in the world do you think they got jobs in the pre-cell phone era?

To you guys who say that the ones who find something very disturbing about this picture are "out of touch with the homeless", I say you are the ones out of touch. You have no idea of how to estabish a budget, one where you put earnings into a savings account BEFORE you blow money on cable, movies, eating out, buying that 5th pair of shoes you don't need, spending on customizing your car, buying beer and cigarettes, having your nails done. Once you have saved enough money to cover your rent and utilities for 6 months, THEN and ONLY THEN are you free to blow money on wants. Get it? Your savings would PREVENT homelessness. Cuz if you can't find a new job in 6 months, then you are the problem.

Clearly, most of you don't know the difference betweeen WANTS and NEEDS. If you did, you would not be able to support all of the "possibilities" that allow this person to own a cell phone, while asking the rest of us to feed him.

Ive read all the excuses as to why this person needs a cell phone and all of them are pitiful. I dont know about you but if I was homeless the last thing on my mind would be worrying about having friends to stay in contact with.

LOL... funny, funny, funny...
Ok... That Cell Phone, looks like the one of the new Treo's which is expensive, and the only way to buy that is either with a contract or outright... I just did a quick search on ebay... $125... and btw my sister manages a cell phone store - and sure you can do month to month, but those plans aren't cheap either...
So, I think it is down right HILARIOUS, it's like those that are broke and have their fake nails, and those of us that are working for a living don't. REALITY CHECK PLEASE!!!

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

-- Andrew Malcolm

Ask ACORN. I bet it's the same cardboard box where they registered his 'legal voting residence'.


1. the man may have had the phone BEFORE he lost his housing

2. He may be directing his mail to a friend or have po box or agency that allows him to have his mail sent there

3. PREPAID PHONES--virgin moblie has a cell with a camera for 19.99.--you buy the minutes and load them as you can afford to

the disgusting thing here is how having a necissity like a phone makes this man "suspect". I guess he could not possibly be homeless unless he walks in in his underware-- why arent you attacking him as a con man for having shoes to wear and a shirt??

GEEZ--people need basic things to get back on their feet, and a phone is one of them. And you can even buy a tracphone for 7.99 at target. Try living lifef for a day without a phone buddy and see how it goes.

That looks like blackberry phone. I highly doubt they are pre-paid phones.

The question is not where the bill is sent. The real question is where does he charge it up?

Reminds me of a guy they found living in a draw bridge here in Chicago. He had spliced into the control room of the bridge operator. He had: power, cable tv, and a microwave stowed into the structure of the drawbridge!

Amazing how inventive one can be when a job doesn't get in the way.

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I just want to know when soup kitchens stopped serving beans and cornbread and started serving mushroom risotto and muffins???? Not only does the guy have a nicer cellphone than I do, but he eats better than I do! Only in America....

Maybe the Taxpayers are paying for the cellphone with the Bailout money's... Maybe the Cellphone bill is being sent to the "Whitehouse".

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why is she doing all this now she never cared for or like the USA befor.. she is a bleeping joke

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Where is this writer coming from or is this an ATENTION SEEKING wind up?
If it is not, How ridiculous and small minded is this statment, the homeless/poor person may have borrowed it from a friend, relative etc, he may just keep the photo on his cell as a keepsake, pay as you go, cell phones are cheap, why shouldnt he have one? etc etc this type of 'observation' is bad and damaging. My response to the person wasting time publishing this is.-
Why not like your First Lady help others instead of finding cynical comments to make when you don't even know the facts? however, i suspect its a ruse to get us to leave out email addresses here!?

For all the people that say homeless people "need" phones... wow, what did anyone do before cell phones? I know there were homeless people in the 80's and 90's. How ON the PLANET did they ever get a job? This is such a joke. Travel to a third world country and you will see that there are NO truly poor people in the US. If you have fresh drinking water and access to even one meal a day, you are better off than most of those folks. If the Obamas really wanted to help the world's less fortunate, they should have moved to a third world country to do their socialist experiments there. Not here. We don't need their unconstitutional garbage here.

Cheap prepaid phone?! This is a Blackberry Pearl this man holds! Libs are so dumb to jump to the defense of Obamas! You would have a better luck if you said that this is a well of man who just stepped in to snap a First Lady pic. But knoooooow,, you are Libs.

Let's not jump to conclusions. Cell phones can be pay as you go not needing a home billing address. It could also be paid by another family member as part of a family plan. We all need a point of contact and in many circumstances it is less expensive to have a cell phone than a land line.

This was nothing but a photo op for the Dems

Pre-Paid or Not. He can't afford food but can afford a cell phone? Wake up!!!!

This is my tax dollars at work??? Maybe I should just quit and live off the Government. Apparently I still get a cell and free food..

Who is to say that man is homeless? He could be a volunteer wanting a photo-op, he could be some random guy who heard from a friend that the First Lady was going to be volunteering at a homeless shelter, and decided to check it out for a picture. There is nothing in that picture that gives any sort of concrete evidence that he is a recipient of the food, or a patron of the shelter at all.

It's ridiculous the conclusions that people jump to, sometimes, without thinking.

To Andrew Malcolm,
I'm asking about that Soup Kitchen picture with Michelle Obama. Is it a fact that the guy with the cell phone camera was homeless? Could he have been a volunteer worker?

(Few people seem to notice the question marks on our sentences too.)

What's next, are we going to wonder aloud whether or not the poor deserve red meat? Or a bed EVERY night? "Only rich people have those things, and if you're rich, you shouldn't be at a soup kitchen!"

Man, you're living in 1984. In oh so many ways.

WOW!!! SO MANY people here MISSING the point!! Our system is BROKEN!! WAKE up America - MANY of these people are working the system!! YOU, are paying for them to NOT work!! Welfare is a JOKE!! I have seen plenty of homeless/beggars in my area with WADS of cash in their pockets!! Newspaper reports of these homeless pan-handlers making upwards of 600 DOLLARS a day!!! Here in Florida we have plenty - due to our moderate weather. STOP THE INSANITY!!! By the way - I am far from homeless and my cell phone does NOT have a camera - it's a PHONE!!

Get a clue, Mr. "Journalist." Cell phones are an inexpensive way for people who don't have a home to get a phone bill at to reach people who might be looking to hire someone.

to the ones who think its a pre-paid and he needs it to get a job and it his his right to own a cell phone. you are all stuiped. it is a privlage to own a phone. he could take that 10+ dollars and buy noodles for a month to eat on. if i was worried about a friend down on his luck instead of a cell phone i would offer a place to stay. he is a crook that is to sorry to get off of his but and make this country a better place just like the rest of you. i am waiting for this country to fail and start over and get back to what this country was founded on. one thing about a sinking ship is the rats are the first to get off. only the ones true to theirselves and god will stay. god bless the men before me who fought for my chance to live in a free country before it became a comunist one

folks... point of reference. that appears to be a blackberry pearl. definitely not prepaid, nor is it disposable.. just my opinion

Everyone here is missing the real problem at hand here and it does not require focusing on the fact that someone has a cell phone taking a picture of Michelle serving food. Has anyone taken just one moment to ask themselves, "What if it were me?" "What if I was the person standing in line hungry with my children?" This is main cause of why the roots of our countries trees are drying out. As human beings, God's people, we are to serve the Lord and his people wholeheartedly. If the Lord asked you the question of why you continually judge others before you take the planks out of your own eyes, what then would your answer be? If we don't continue to water the trees, the simple truth is they will die. This is someones father, mother, sister or brother and in a swift action of the hand of the Lord, you ALL better realize that Trading Places is about to take place. Rich and poor have this in common: The Lord is Maker of them all.....Once you have walked in someone's else's storm of life, you will remember to bring your umbrella next time instead of your HAMMER OF JUDGEMENT..

you people are as you go phone or adding a homeless family to your plan?...if he is homeless where does he charge the thing when the battery dies?

Pay as you go with a Blackberry.
Yeah..... in your wildest dreams!

And then there's the one about the three bears.
Get real.

Maybe he's not homeless after all, just a hungry man with a cell phone who happened to be in the right place at the right time! Talking about cell phones, not all are the same! There are plenty of prepaid cell phones that are totally affordable even for an unemployed person. Just go to WalMart or any other discount store - TracFone or NET10 are two great prepaid plans that are sold there. These go for about $10 with camera and all. So, maybe this guy went to KMart or the Dollar store and bought this phone. At any rate, good for him, at least he got the photo of the first lady and made it in this article!!

Hello! Prepaid, anyone? Homeless people can spendat least 25 dollars a month and have enough minutes to last them the whole month. It's a great idea. The phone that man is holding could very well be one of the TracFone camera phones. They cost under 40 dollars at KMart and are easily refilled with less than 25 dollars a month.

This stereotype cannot be refuted, especially in the nation's capital. I doubt we would see this in any other city in the USA because social programs are rich as mother's milk where the teat lies. The cream is flowing in DC.
Cleveland is far removed from the teat as is Little Rock. Those cities aren't hidden in the bubble the DC suburbs enjoy. Does the federal government really want the District to appear as a slum? Hell no! It has to maintain some facade of prosperity so as not to let the world know how bad we really have it in this country.
A Blackberry phone in the hands of a man begging for food in a soup kitchen for the homeless is a slap in the face to all Americans, especially when he is photographing the wife of the president of the United States.
C'mon folks, wake up.

"Hello! Prepaid, anyone? Homeless people can spendat least 25 dollars a month and have enough minutes to last them the whole month. It's a great idea. The phone that man is holding could very well be one of the TracFone camera phones. They cost under 40 dollars at KMart and are easily refilled with less than 25 dollars a month. "

HELLO?!? if you're homeless and poor and you have $25/month do you spend it on a cell phone or on food to survive???????

Maybe some people would not be so negative if they didn't see certain people on Gov't assistance, food stamps and other programs; driving nicer cars than a family thats making 100,000 a year. I'm sick and tired of paying for people to live above their mean and having me pay for it.

All the homeless are waiting for those job calls. What a joke

Did he ever claim to be homeless?
I've never seen a soup kitchen demand proof, all the ones I know welcome everyone.

Or, maybe he's just a guy who hurried on down to get a picture of Wife of the One.

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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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