The Chow Train will end its Tuesday hot dinner service on Christmas Night after 13 years and 100,000– plus meals. Joan Cheever began the weekly service in 2005, serving people at four locations on Tuesday nights, with the last stop at Maverick Park, near San Antonio’s downtown. Cheever and her husband, Dennis Quinn, distributed a printed announcement to diners on Tuesday, Dec. 11th, with information about other hot meal services on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, all at downtown locations. “We aren’t ending The Chow Train. Just the Tuesday night dinner. We will still be available for disaster relief,” Cheever said. “I want to spend more time writing about issues surrounding homelessness. I am committed to this community –as an advocate and as a lawyer. We will continue The Chow Train’s mission of educating people about homelessness, hunger and food waste. There are several restaurants, caterers and grocery stores who hate food waste as much as we do and help us out a lot.” Cheever and Quinn have provided meals to thousands–including the “newly homeless” when tornadoes struck in Moore, Oklahoma and Joplin, Missouri as well as after Hurricane Isaac in La Place, Louisiana and in Brooklyn, New York after Hurricane Sandy. They also served victims and members of the Smithville, TX fire department in the Bastrop wild fires in 2012 and served first responders and victims in the San Marcos/ Wimberley floods in May 2015. Their most recent trip was in August 2017 to Aransas Pass to serve the survivors and first responders after Hurricane Harvey. They returned last December– with 100 Christmas trees with “all the trimmings” for Aransas Pass residents who lost their Christmas decorations in the hurricane. C h e e v e r s a i d t h e y have tried to identify an organization or individuals to continue the Chow Train but as of yet, they have been unsuccessful. Through the years Cheever and Quinn carried out, what many consider a novel idea — promoting good nutrition: those being served could take whatever they wanted so long as they began their meal with a cup of fresh vegetable soup.
The Chow Train became better known after Cheever was cited and fined $2,000 on April 7, 2015 for serving food at Maverick Park. An outraged response in the community took The Chow Train to national prominence, with Cheever appearing on major TV networks, in the Washington Post and on National Public Radio. When Cheever told the police officer she was protected by the First Amendment’s right to religious freedom, the officer told her to pray in church. “Every plate of food I serve is a prayer,” she replied. “I pray quietly.” Cheever started The Chow Train in 2005 to set an example for her then, pre-teens, Daley and Austin. “They were normal tweens, but I heard a little bit too much of ‘I want. I want.’ When it got to be too much, I just went into the kitchen and cooked a big pot of spaghetti, put together a salad, iced down some bottles of water and threw the kids in the car. I told them, ‘We are going to serve people who have nothing, and they aren’t complaining.’”
Cheever and Quinn’s now- adult children –who live in New York City and Los Angeles — will be with them on Christmas evening when they serve their last meal on the street. “We will be with our little family, serving our family on the street. The gift is in the giving. That’s the best Christmas gift ever.”