The Community Market partners with four local restaurants to provide 500 full meals weekly to those in need
The Eagle Valley Community Foundation’s Community Market has served 375% more visitors since the COVID-19 pandemic left many individuals and families in a bind, and that number has just kept going up. While that support has helped some 3,800 people per week put food on the table, constantly cooking meals and washing up has gotten a bit old.
Enter four local restaurants and one financial grant.
The Community Market has partnered with Hovey & Harrison, Red Maple Catering, Splendido and Vin48 to provide 500 home-cooked meals each week to those who may need some relief from the stress and time factors that go into preparing a meal. Meals from all four restaurants are available at the Gypsum and Edwards markets, and the selection changes daily.
“It puts a smile on people’s faces,” said Food Systems Director Kelly Liken, whose name some may recognize from past head chef positions she’s held at some of the Vail Valley’s best restaurants. “It’s a little extra, a little above and beyond what they’re usually able to get here at the Community Market. It’s really making people feel good.”
The mobile markets across the valley are still open, but will not offer full meals.
The program wouldn’t be possible without the Vail Valley Foundation’s Community Fund, which has been providing financial grants to Eagle County 501(c)3 non-profits since April 22. The Community Market received a grant, and so will other organizations addressing critical issues, which the VVF has identified as: food insecurity, rent assistance, mental health, domestic violence and youth education. The market uses grant funds to pay for the meals, and the program will continue for 8-12 weeks.
“The ripple effects of this crisis are being felt by all of us, but it’s crucial that we ensure that everyone in our community is able to maintain their health and dignity no matter what their situation. We are hopeful that the work of the VVF Community Fund can help bridge the gap until we can get our economy going on all cylinders again,” said Tom Boyd, director of public relations and the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater for the VVF.
While the main service provided here benefits those most in need of food assistance, the Community Market also designed the program to help the participating restaurants, who are struggling without the ability to pack the house full of hungry diners each weekend. The Community Market and each restaurant settled on a per meal price that allows the restaurant to pay laid-off workers to make the meals and support the business, while also enabling the market to give those meals away for free without hurting their own finances.
“We wanted to make it make sense financially for the restaurants as well as us,” Liken said. “We wanted to think about how we can really impact those in need, as well as our local businesses. How can we make this a win-win?”
For Splendido chef and owner Brian Ackerman, getting involved was only partially about being able to support his staff.
“It’s kind of a no-brainer,” he said. “We’re all chefs. It’s what we do. We feed people and make them happy. It’s in our DNA.”
The meals Splendido is providing each have full portions of protein, vegetables and starches.
Of course, there is the obvious fact that prepared meals are inherently more expensive than groceries. The prices do reflect a happy financial medium where both parties benefit, but the Community Market could stretch their dollar much farther if they were buying produce and other items to stock the shelves. Liken said for this program, the “most efficient use of dollars” is not the point.
“The point here is to support local restaurants who might be struggling, support employees who have been laid-off,” she said. “And also, getting delicious homemade soup for our customers at the Community Market. How do we really be a part of the community and impact multiple areas of the community?”
Liken loves that the Community Market is able to support so many struggling households in a time of need, but even bigger than that, she appreciates how this effort is emblematic of the Eagle Valley’s generous, philanthropic spirit.
“This program speaks directly to what our Eagle Valley community is, and to where we, the Community Market want to be: building and strengthening our community around us,” she said. “I think if there is any silver lining to this COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that this community here in the Eagle Valley has banded together to take care of each other.”
“When we were trying to craft this program, that is exactly what we were thinking. How do we continue to be a part of this community and grow it? How do we support one another? How do we think outside the box to make a positive impact in multiple areas? I really believe that this program is doing just that.”
If you need food assistance, learn more about how to use the Community Market’s services with this Vail Daily story and by visiting https://eaglevalleycf.org/the-community-market/. There, find additional information, store addresses, up-to-date mobile market schedules, and more. La información también está disponible en Español. Those wishing to donate or volunteer may also find information online.
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