Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/TNS
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, some residents are facing food insecurity and a shortage of supplies. Evanston businesses and residents are working to lift up the city.
Jennifer’s Edibles first aimed to feed five seniors a day during the pandemic. However, once news about the restaurant’s effort spread, William Eason, managing partner and brother to Jennifer Eason, owner and chef, said the need grew “exponentially.” Five seniors grew to 18, and over a week, have now become over 100.
“This was not done in a vacuum,” William Eason said. “We’re sticking to our guns and trying to help. It shouldn’t take a pandemic for people to find their humanity.”
People 65 years and older are at higher risk for severe illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Seniors across the country were told to stay home, and Eason said those in Evanston were scared to go outside. This left many of them without food in their homes and, sometimes, without caregivers. Jennifer’s Edibles wanted to change that.
The restaurant received help publicizing its effort from Nina Kavin, founder of Dear Evanston, and Meleika Gardner, owner of Evanston Live TV. Kavin set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for Jennifer’s Edibles. The goal was to raise $21,000, which would allow the restaurant to serve 100 seniors each day for the next 30 days. Each meal costs $7 and Jennifer’s Edibles intended to make 3,000 meals. Donations far exceeded their goal; in total, Jennifer’s Edibles raised $29,734.
William Eason said Jennifer’s Edibles has over 30 volunteers helping them as drivers, shoppers and prep cooks. He gives “a lot of props” to volunteers, as meal donations are a collective effort.
Jennifer’s Edibles has closed its GoFundMe page since it reached its goal, but is still accepting donations over the phone or in the mail. William Eason also noted that the restaurant needs donations of masks.
Feast & Imbibe
At the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in early March, local catering company Feast & Imbibe got calls from customers canceling or postponing their upcoming events. Owner Heather Bublick and her staff were left with no catering opportunities.
Now, the company is cooking meals for people in need. To date, Feast & Imbibe has given 1,500 meals and counting to organizations across Chicagoland. The barbecue food division of the company, Soul & Smoke, also prepares meals.
Community members can donate to Feast & Imbibe’s efforts or sponsor a specific number of meals through the company’s website. Depending on the level of sponsorship, people can donate meals to those who work at Evanston hospitals, for example, or to someone they know personally. Residents donate items like paper bags to Feast & Imbibe and local restaurants donate ingredients, too.
Bublick said preparing meals for the community has not only kept her team employed, but in good spirits.
“We have fallen in love with this whole process,” Bublick said. “We’re dedicated to getting food to as many people who need it.”
La Principal owner and chef Eric Young connects with local organizations looking to provide food to their members, staff or people in need. Meals are paid for by donations from customers.
To streamline the process and lower the cost of meals, Young created a boxed lunch program. Each boxed lunch costs $5.50 and includes two tacos, rice, beans, a piece of fruit and salsa.
La Principal has donated meals to organizations like Hemenway United Methodist Church, Beth Emet Synagogue and Hilda’s Place Transitional Shelter. Young said customers and neighbors have donated as much as $500 to his efforts.
“It’s been incredible to see such an outpouring of generosity,” Young said.
Young also commissioned Peter Norman, an artist and barista at Reprise Coffee Roasters, to paint a mural on the outside of his restaurant. The mural is black and white, featuring the message, “This too shall pass.”
“We’re all in this together,” Young said. “We need these messages of positivity.”
Considered an essential business, Hewn Bread continues to sell bread and pastries to customers, but the business is also baking for the Hillside Food Pantry in Evanston.
The bakery is participating in a program called Neighbor Loaves, which was started by the Artisan Grain Collaborative, a group that promotes a regenerative food system. Hewn’s customers can pay for loaves of bread that will be donated to the food pantry.
Julie Matthei, Hewn co-owner and director of business operations, said that in addition to addressing food insecurity, the Neighbor Loaves program helps farmers and keeps Hewn’s staff employed.
“In light of this crisis, people are really understanding in a much more tangible way how interconnected we are,” Matthei said. “We all have to rely on each other.”
Sam Rattanopas, owner of NaKorn, said weekends used to be the busiest time of the week for the urban Thai restaurant. Rattanopas would purchase ingredients in bulk to serve dozens of patrons each day. Rattanopas and her team have used the leftover ingredients to cook for those in need.
NaKorn first donated meals to residents at Jacob Blake Manor Apartments, an affordable housing community in Evanston for the elderly. After seeing how happy the meals made the seniors, Rattanopas said she wanted to do more. She began a GoFundMe page, raising funds to purchase more ingredients and pay her staff.
“In times like these, we all need to support each other,” Rattanopas said. “The Buddha said give, even if you only have a little.”
NaKorn has since donated meals to those in need through local organizations like Reba Place Development Corporation. Rattanopas is also asking residents to reach out to her if they know of groups that need free meals.
Viet Nom Nom partners with Teertsemasesottehg
When owner Alan Moy closed Viet Nom Nom, he had a “truck-full” of produce left in his kitchen.
Moy has since teamed up with Q. Ibraheem, owner of Teertsemasesottehg. He donated the produce to Ibraheem, which she used to cook hot meals for Evanston parents and children in need.
Inspired by Ibraheem’s work, Moy said he plans to create a pledged meal program for healthcare workers and senior citizens. It will begin when Viet Nom Nom reopens after the Coronavirus outbreak. He aims to expand the program to include other groups in the future, too.
People can donate to Ibraheem’s efforts on her Eventbrite page. Different dollar amounts feed a specific number of people.
Ten Thousand Villages
An enclosed shelf hangs on the wall outside retailer Ten Thousand Villages. The shelf usually contains books, but over the last few weeks, owner Joseph Meyer has seen how much residents need items like household supplies. He was moved to convert the “library” into a free pantry.
“Doing this is part of who we are,” Meyer said. “We’re in a position to help those locally.”
Ten Thousand Villages plans to keep the free pantry open as long as it’s needed. Meyer said he is counting on residents to restock the pantry as it is emptied. He aims for the pantry to be a “self-perpetuating,” contact-free form of helping his community.
Meleika Gardner in partnership with E-Town Sister Circle
Meleika Gardner works to support seniors in collaboration with E-Town Sister Circle, a group for black women that fosters belonging and support. Gardner said seniors need cleaning supplies, groceries and hygiene products delivered since it’s unsafe for them to leave their homes. Volunteers from E-Town Sister Circle, of which Gardner is a member, bring seniors essential items like gloves and household cleaner.
To raise funds for these efforts, community members donate money via Chase QuickPay with Zelle. Donations are then given to C & W Market and Ice Cream Parlor, which provides the supplies seniors need.
Nurses involved with E-Town Sister Circle also volunteer to visit seniors, assess their health and make lists of supplies they need. Nurses check seniors’ blood pressure and temperature, as well as ensure that they have necessary medication.
FASTSIGNS of Skokie
In an effort to support small businesses, FASTSIGNS of Skokie is offering a special promotion during the pandemic. Clients can pay a portion of their invoices with gift cards from locally owned restaurants in Evanston, Skokie, Winnetka and Wilmette.
Owner Kim Hackl has many friends who own restaurants in the North Shore community. She said the pandemic is a “scary” time to be operating a business, and feels for those struggling.
“This is really a win-win,” Hackl said. “Our customers are able to support our small business and someone else’s.”
Additionally, FASTSIGNS of Skokie is giving all temporary Coronavirus testing facilities one free banner or two free art signs to advertise. The business’ storefront is not open, but clients can call or email to inquire about both promotions.
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