It’s a trying time for individuals and families whose incomes have dwindled, making them unsure about how they will put their next meal on the table.
It’s the same for local farmers, who have seen their sales plummet as restaurants have closed and grocery stores limit customers to curb the spread of COVID-19.
But Chef Dave Heide, owner of Charlie’s on Main in Oregon and Lilana’s Restaurant in Fitchburg, is looking to combat those crises in the coming weeks — finding an outlet for beleaguered farmers and families who are struggling with food insecurity, unemployment and homelessness.
Liliana’s is working with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dane County and Reach Dane to help get meals out to families and kids in need, Heide said. In the next few weeks, the Charlie’s on Main neighboring Main Event venue will serve as a packing and processing site for the meals, as well as kits to support local farmers. People will be able to pick up pre-packaged kits and meals at Liliana’s.
“We are trying to get really great, from-scratch cooking,” Heide said of the goal to serve nutritious, fresh and hearty ingredients with recipes to accompany them.
The farm kits will cost $50 or $100 depending on their contents, Heide said, the aim being 100 available per week.
“So many of these farmers are depending on restaurants to remain open,” he said. “That’s how a majority of our mom and pop farmers make a living.”
The public will be able to order the boxes on Monday and volunteers will package them on Saturday afternoons. Volunteers will package the Boys and Girls Club community meals Monday through Friday, to be delivered to drop sites that assist with food insecurity and homelessness in the county. Heide said those will reach 600-800 families who are struggling right now.
But one of the challenges Heide said he and staff face with the programs are the ever-evolving regulations, and how quickly they change as a result of new pandemic developments.
So far, restaurants in the state are still allowed to offer curbside pickup and online ordering options — though some establishments have closed down altogether.
Another challenge is coming up with nutritious food that’s not just pasta, Heide said.
But he and chefs from around the county have brainstormed different recipe ideas, which will be different each week – one including roasted chicken with mashed potatoes and charred broccoli. It’s all a matter of working with local farmers to find out what ingredients they have in excess.
“We are adapting at a pace we can,” he said.