A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from July 07, 2009
“Will work for food”

"Will work for food’ is a saying that might appear on a crudely written cardboard sign, carried by a homeless person. It’s the picture of despair.

Although the saying seemingly dates to the 1930s (Great Depression), it appears to be cited in print from the 1980s. “Will work for food” has been depicted in many newspaper cartoons, but is of unknown origin.


Food Network
WILL WORK FOR FOOD
About the Show
Adam Gertler shared his humorous take on food throughout season four of The Next Food Network Star. Now, he pairs his comedic timing with an adventurous spirit in the new series, Will Work for Food. The series exposes Adam to the world of little-known food jobs as he fearlessly puts his life – and mouth – on the line to try them all! Whether taking honey from three million bees, sculpting ice with a chain saw, foraging for truffles, or digging a wine cave, Adam will do anything in the name of food.

CartoonStock
Will Work For Food Cartoons
You are looking at the “will work for food” cartoon page from the CartoonStock directory. Follow the links on this page to search on other topics or to purchase reproduction rights for any of these images or gift items incorporating the cartoons.

11 July 1985, Aiken (SC) Standard, “Man Starting Life Over,” pg. 9B, col. 1:
MYRTLE BEACH (AP)—William Nolan’s hand-lettered cardboard sign stained with sweat and grease reads, “Will work for food.”

19 July 1987, Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader, “For Drifter, Home Is Wherever the Work Is,” pg. B1:
He found a piece of poster board and carefully lettered a sign that read: “i will work for food.”

19 July 1988, New York (NY) Times, “Transcript of the Keynote Address by Ann Richards, the Texas Treasurer,” pg. A18:
And there is no major city in America where you cannot see homeless men sitting in parking lots holding signs that say, “I will work for food.”

5 September 1991, Alton (IL) Telegraph, “Woman ready to work for food but finds ready cash in Alton” by Mart Brase, pg. A5, col. 1:
ALTON—A woman offering to work for food collected only cash during rush hour Wednesday at the foot of Clark Bridge.

“My husband and I got stranded here,” said Brenda Shoemaker, 35, holding a hand-lettered, cardboard sign reading, “Homless, Hungry, Work for Food.”

OCLC WorldCat record
Will work for food
Author: Jim Gorman
Publisher: Normal, IL : Illinois Writers, 1993.
Edition/Format: Book : English

26 July 1993, Titusville (PA) Herald, pg. 12, col. 1:
DEAR ABBY: This is my experience with a “homeless” man carrying a large “Will Work for Food” sign.

OCLC WorldCat record
Will work for food or $ : a memoir from the roadside
Author: Bruce Moody
Publisher: York Beach, ME : Red Wheel, 2003.
Edition/Format: Book : Biography : English

Eat Me Daily
Get a Job: Use Your Experience Edition
June 25, 2009, 3:30 pm
(A handwritten, cardboard sign reads: “WILL WORK FOR FOOD”—ed.)

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • (1) Comments • Tuesday, July 07, 2009 • Permalink


It originated here in Boulder, CO in the late ‘80s. An acquaintance of mine, James Bush, an itinerant bicycle mechanic, ran out of money here and sat on our Pearl St. Mall, a huge tourist attraction, with the original “Will Work for Food” sign. He was arrested. It took the City Attorney months to drop the charges. It’s just another fact that proves official Boulder represents the worst of its citizens.

I’ll soon put up a blog post with the original news photo, etc.

Posted by Evan Ravitz  on  02/02  at  10:58 AM

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