412 Meals Rescue helps eating places fulfill starvation this winter

This idea will not only help restaurants cope with yet another shutdown, it will also provide groceries for people in need this winter.

As of Monday, the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership and 412 Food Rescue have teamed up to provide restaurants with a steady weekly income and bring free meals to people with food insecurity.

The program is called Community Takeout and was launched by 412 Food Rescue in May to support service industry workers during the red phase of Covid-19 orders last spring.

This second phase coincides with Governor Tom Wolf’s three-week break from indoor dining and is supported by a fellowship from the Richard King Mellon Foundation.

On weekdays through May 2021, employees at participating downtown restaurants will be paid to prepare more than 200 meals for those in need. With grants of approximately $ 10,000 per week, restaurants can cover the cost of supplies and staff to prepare approximately 1,225 meals per week.

Restaurant owners who joined the program earlier this year say it has been a lifeline for their businesses.

“We did it with them in the summer. Not only was it a great source of income when it was really slow and we were dragging, but it also helped us keep some employees who would otherwise have been on leave or laid off, ”said Aimee Anoia, co-owner of DiAnoia’s Eatery with husband Dave . “It was a really nice thing that 412 Food Rescue not only helped the community with, but helped us too.”

Leah Lizarondo, co-founder and CEO of 412 Food Rescue, said restaurants have consistently supported their efforts over the years and she wanted to give something back.

“We went to these restaurants and said, ‘We want to help you through the red phase and hopefully there is enough support so we can help you get through it,” said Lizarondo.

Last spring seven of the eight restaurants that had worked with 412 Food Rescue survived the red phase and were able to offer over 15,000 meals in this first round. The Community Takeout program raised $ 30,000 for the Pittsburgh Restaurant Workers Aid Fund during the red phase last spring.

“Programs like this are urgently needed right now to support restaurants,” said Anoia. “The take-out business that is happening now will never replace what a normal sit-down restaurant was. Restaurants will not be able to survive with it. “

This next iteration resulted from overtures of the City of Pittsburgh-Downtown partnership for 412 Food Rescue. In mid-January, the program will expand significantly to include up to 15 downtown restaurants hit by the sharp drop in repeat customers, and will serve meals until May, when it is expected to be al fresco again.

“Hopefully the vaccinations are in full swing in June and the weather is better and we can better support these restaurants during this difficult time,” said Lizarondo.

After each day’s meals are prepared, 412 Food Rescue volunteers deliver the groceries hands-free to the organization’s nonprofit partners who serve people who are unsure.

“It’s a win-win situation,” said Anoia. “There is a lot of depressing news and things out there. Seeing that our food will do something good for other people not only improved the team’s morale at work, but it also felt good to know that the food gets where it really needs to be. “

Paul Guggenheimer is a contributor to Tribune Review. You can contact Paul at 724-226-7706 or pguggenheimer@triblive.com.

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