Photo by MikeGoad on Pixabay.
“We saw that there was going to be an elevated need for food security in the committee and that our businesses at feed were likely going to struggle in the event of a lockdown, and so we started to come up with this concept of converting the kitchen into a meal prep facility, recognizing that, at 5,400 square feet, it was a really critical asset during a time of crisis,” said Abha Takkar, the executive director of civic advocacy group Northside Planning Council, talking about FEED Kitchens.
It is an organization that helps local food startups get their footing. Back in march, it used money from COVID relief programs to start FEED to Go, a program that delivered free curbside meals to people in Madison who needed them. But when that money ran out in July, the program ended. Thakkar says that they are looking to revive the program.
“We just had our first major fundraising win last week when we got $15,000 from the 100+ Women Who Care Madison Group,” said Thakkar. “We were awarded their impact award, and that was to help relaunch the program. So now we are also starting a GoFundMe and a silent auction to help build on that. And what I do, I reach out to our partner organizations like the neighborhood centers, I try to see if we can get matching funds so that we split the cost of the meals and double the impact of the money we are trying to raise.”
She says that their primary concern right now is raising money to make sure that the program is properly funded.
Eighty-one restaurants around Madison are affiliated with FEED Kitchens, according to its manager, Chris Brokkel. He says that though some of their restaurants had closed down during the pandemic, none of them had closed their doors because of the pandemic. He also says that the FEED to Go program, when they were running it, helped feed many Madison families.
“We’ve hired some chefs working out of here-mostly food cart chefs, some catering chefs as well-to prepare meals for delivery into neighborhoods and, at the height of that program, we were doing 600 meals a day,” said Brokkel.
Brokkel says that one of the other advantages of the FEED to Go program is that it can serve Madison residents of many cultures, because of the large variety of food it offers. Carmell Jackson owns Melly Mel’s Deli and Catering in south Madison and was one of the business owners who provided food for the original FEED to Go program. Jackson says they prepared their meals to accommodate the needs of all Madison’s citizens.
“We cut out fats and salts, made it more healthy, we made sure that there was no peanuts in them for people with allergies, some no dairy, less dairy things,” said Jackson. “We had a Latino chef as well and he did a lot of ethnic Latino dishes for the Mexican and Latino community. We did what the community needed as well as keeping everything healthy and free of allergens and things like that. There was one community that didn’t want pork, so we didn’t have any pork product.”
Jackson says that she intends to continue working with FEED to Go when the program resumes.
Thakkar says that, though they are currently in the fundraising process, she intends to revive the program soon.
“We’re hoping in the next week or two,” said Thakkar. “I’m just trying to nail down where the first meals might go. My hope is no later than Monday the 19th, and that we would be able to run for a couple months through the winter, if not longer.”