For the past three decades, Joan M. Cheever has been a tireless advocate for the poor, persons without homes and those who are imprisoned.
Cheever, an award-winning legal affairs journalist and a former managing editor of The National Law Journal, graduated from the Culinary School at St. Philips College and received her Associates degree in Culinary Arts in May 2012. In December 2011, she completed a 16- week culinary internship at Catholic Worker House on the East Side of San Antonio where she cooked on site, in her mobile kitchen, The Chow Train. Cheever served a three-course hot lunch for the 125+ hungry men and women who show up every Monday. On Tuesdays, The Chow Train’s volunteers serve a three-course dinner on the streets of San Antonio in various locations, to a group ranging from 40 to 100 individuals. The Chow Train regularly provides a hot lunch on Sundays to approximately 175 guests of the nonprofit, Under The Bridge.
Cheever and her group of volunteers have been cooking for the hungry and their “street peeps” for many years. In May 2011, five days after the tornado touched down in Joplin, MO., killing 161 people, Cheever traveled to the disaster site with her three-day old trailer and her adventurous next door neighbor, and began serving breakfast, lunch and dinner to survivors, first responders and members of law enforcement. At the request of AmeriCorps, The Chow Train returned a month later and served more than 3,500 restaurant quality meals to the 150+ members of AmeriCorps in addition to volunteers from across the nation and residents of the devastated community.
In September 2011, The Chow Train traveled once again, closer to home and set up in the parking lot of the Smithville Fire Department and began serving a hot lunch and dinner to hungry and exhausted local and out of town firefighters battling the Bastrop wildfires, volunteers and residents of the community who had lost their homes. These people, like those in Joplin, are America’s “new homeless.”
In September 2012, The Chow Train traveled to La Place, LA serving the residents and first responders to Hurricane Isaac and, two months later, in November 2012, were in Brooklyn, NY serving hot meals to residents and volunteers for Hurricane Sandy. In May 2013, The Chow Train traveled to Moore, OK to serve residents devastated by the tornado there and in 2015, The Chow Train traveled “up the street” to serve first responders and members of the community of San Marcos who were hit by the Memorial Day flooding.
Believing that food for the soul is as equally important as a hot and healthy meal, Cheever has been an active and enthusiastic supporter of the city’s libraries and served on the Executive Committee of the San Antonio Public Library Foundation, which raises public awareness and monies for San Antonio’s 28 libraries. The Chow Train has regularly served a hot lunch to hundreds of underprivileged school children that attend the SAPLF’s Book Festival in April.
Cheever, a wife and mother of two, received her Bachelor’s degree from Southern Methodist University; a Master’s in journalism from Columbia University and her law degree from St. Mary’s University. She is a member of the bar in the states of Texas, New York and Connecticut.
She is the author of Back From The Dead: One Woman’s Search For the Men Who Walked Off Death Row (John Wiley & Sons 2006), a book about imprisonment and the death penalty in the U.S. Cheever is currently writing a book about homelessness and hunger in the United States.