Local restaurants to benefit as well
By Kendra Walker
In an effort to help feed families in need and to support local restaurants that are closed because of COVID-19 public health orders, Mountain Roots Food Project launched a new healthy family supper program this week.
Through funding from the Community Foundation of the Gunnison Valley (CFGB) and in collaboration with Gunnison Watershed School District, Gunnison Country Food Pantry, Bethany Baptist Church and Gunnison County Department of Human Health and Services, the program will work with local restaurants to create and prepare healthy family suppers that will then be delivered to families in need.
“Our request for food security work has more than doubled during this crisis,” said Mountain Roots Food Project executive director Holly Conn. “More and more families are finding themselves in need, even if just temporarily.” And while the group of stakeholders has been helping provide services such as meals for students and groceries for low-income families, they realized there was no available option for a healthy prepared family meal, and families are still struggling to access these resources under social distancing requirements.
At the same time, Mountain Roots recognized that local restaurants have been closing or are struggling to keep their businesses going with just delivery and take-out services. “We have all these restaurants that are barely making business or closing and food is going to waste,” said Mountain Roots’ Farm to School Education program director Sasha Legere. “It got me thinking how we could help stimulate our economy and keep businesses afloat and also feed families.”
“So we came up with a program through which we would repurpose several local restaurants to produce healthy family meals for families in need during the time of this crisis,” said Conn. “Every restaurant that’s able to produce these suppers will have an income they otherwise wouldn’t have and be able to make up for some of their loss of revenue.”
Mountain Roots was awarded a small grant from CFGV to kick off the project, which will allow them to start sign-ups this week to deliver 100 family suppers to those in need starting next week. Each supper will feed four people, and can be paid for on a sliding scale of $0 to $20 per meal. Mountain Roots has asked participating restaurants to create a healthy meal option for the program, rather than choosing an existing item on their to-go menu. “We don’t just want to feed families, we also want to nourish them with healthy and hearty meals,” said Conn.
Mountain Roots will be repurposing its Farm to School Education team to pick up meals from the restaurants and deliver them to families on Tuesdays and Fridays. “With school being closed, it feels like a really great fit for them to fill the role of feeding families right now,” said Conn.
“This is a win-win,” Conn continued. “This is a way to support local businesses and stimulate the economy in a downturn. We want to give them the ability to recover some of their losses by repurposing their resources and their employees.”
The participating restaurants so far include the Mountain Roots kitchen, The Divvy, Tully’s, The Dive/Mario’s and Firebrand Delicatessen. Mountain Roots hopes to bring more restaurants on board as the program evolves in the coming weeks.
“I’m trying to help out the community any way that I possibly can,” said David Wilkins of The Divvy, who will be cooking 50 meals next week for the program. Wilkins said he is getting his produce through Farm Runners to help support local farmers and is also offering a chicken dinner special at The Divvy, where he will donate a meal to someone in need for every meal bought. “I’m extremely interested in any way I can help out,” he said.
“The willingness and eagerness of the restaurants has been amazing,” said Legere. “They’re excited about the opportunity, but even more excited to help the community in any way possible and give back.”
Mountain Roots is awaiting potential funding from an additional source that would allow them to ramp up the project to fulfill the community’s full need, which has been identified by how many kids are getting meals from the school district, said Conn. “If more funding comes through, we’ll be able to do 400 suppers a week,” which will feed 1,600 individuals per week for the next four to five weeks or until funding runs out.
“I know this is a hard time,” said Legere. “I think this program showcases what a tight-knit and amazing community we are, and how willing people are to step up and help out.”
If you are a family in need, you can sign up for a meal at mountainrootsfoodproject.org. Donations are also welcome, and for more information about the healthy family supper program, email firstname.lastname@example.org