A new program to support Kansas City restaurants while feeding those struggling with food insecurity is now in the works.
Following the success of Community Carry Out in St. Louis, Feed KC Forward is now collecting donations for a similar purpose in Kansas City. The fund, hosted by the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, will provide stipends to restaurants to cook meals that will go to those who need them.
The Kansas City effort is being spearheaded by Mary Bloch, a food writer who has spent the last decade as a food critic on Kansas City's KCUR-89.3 FM. Bloch wanted to find a way to help people during the COVID-19 pandemic, but with the health risks, she didn't want to be out and about when lending a hand. But when a mutual friend of Liz Kniep Engelsmann, who was leading Community Carry Out in St. Louis, asked if Bloch might be interested in starting the fund in Kansas City, she says she immediately started to smile.
Grants from the new project will provide money to restaurants to cook meals for people who struggle with food insecurity.
"When this fell – it literally fell in my lap – I thought, 'This is perfect,'" she says. "I can do this by phone and by computer, and I know a lot of people in the community. And I thought 'I can make this work.'"
But Bloch isn't running the show all by herself. Kanbe's Markets is the official fiscal sponsor of the project, meaning that the organization will be the one to officially distribute the stipends, in addition to providing some produce for the meals (which, Bloch specifies, is separate from the regular charity work they are doing). And chef Shanita Bryant, owner of The Prospect Urban Eatery, will be on hand to help receive restaurant applications for the stipends and match applicants with agencies who will receive the meals and make sure the meals provided are appropriate for recipients. For example, a group of seniors may prefer soft foods, and meals designed for kids should probably keep an eye on the amount of sugar.
Money will be distributed in increments of $5,000 and $10,000 with the goal to make 250 and 500 meals, respectively. After the costs of prepping the meals are taken care of, spare funds are meant to help with typical restaurant overhead costs associated with preparing those meals like staffing, rent and utilities.
Feed KC Forward is meant as a short-term solution to the problems caused by COVID-19, but Bloch hopes that as the vaccine becomes more widely available and diners begin returning to restaurants that the fund will no longer be needed. But, in the meantime, it's already ready to help; as of Monday, Jan. 11, Feed KC Forward has raised $150,000 to help support restaurants and feed those in need.
Editor's note: This post has been updated to clarify that agencies can apply to be a recipient of meals online.