A coalition of Napa chefs, restaurateurs, caterers, farmers and residents have teamed up to launch Feed Napa Now this week in an effort to take care of families in Napa now, as well as at any time in the future when food assistance is critical.
As all Californians were directed to stay home except for essential job and shopping needs, a group of business owners from the Napa restaurant community began group telephone calls, nearly daily, to brainstorm next steps and how to best take care of their people, their employees and families.
“Some of us felt that we really needed to have a better mechanism in place to help people that are worse off than we are,” said Chuck Meyer, owner of Napa Palisades Saloon and First & Franklin Marketplace. “Our first thought was that a lot of people had been laid off, what about their kids, how could we help?” These conversations led to the development of Feed Napa Now.
Ken Frank, chef and owner of La Toque Restaurant in The Westin Verasa Napa, has been helping feed people at Napa shelter. Meyer and Frank kept the conversations going, sparking the formation of the coalition.
“Although Napa is known as a culinary destination, our very tight-knit restaurant community was a bit disjointed and unable to quickly motivate and help people in need with our food resources,” Meyer said. “Everybody was working alone, and we wanted to figure out how we could work together not only for right now, but also for future crises. We keep having them!” He was referring to the earthquakes, wildfires, power blackouts and now the coronavirus pandemic.
Founding participating restaurants include Bounty Hunter; Cole’s Chop House; Grace’s Table; Heritage Eats; Il Posto; La Toque; Napa Palisades Saloon; Oenotri; Ristorante Allegria; Taqueria Rosita; Tarla and Zuzu/La Taberna.
Initially, Feed Napa Now, together with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Napa Valley and the support of donors, is cooking for and providing meals to the growing number of Napa County children and families who are going hungry due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
To make it happen, monetary donations first had to be put in place.
“We needed money, and a non-profit partner to properly receive and distribute the donations,” explained David Aten, owner of David Aten Events. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Napa Valley became the fiscal agent for Feed Napa Now. Culinary professionals are compensated to cover the costs to prepare meals for those in need. Monetary donations will ensure that healthy meals are designated first for children and then their families. They also provide a supplemental income stream, important for restaurants and caterers now operating at a greatly-reduced capacity.
Aten set out to further add members to the coalition and begin asks for donations. Immediately, three families stepped up with sizable monetary commitments that enabled the launch of the Feed Napa Now pilot program this week.
“We are incredibly grateful to Don and Bettina Bryant of Bryant Estate; Darioush and Shahpar Khaledi, of Darioush; and Steven and Claire Stull,” Aten said.
“The pilot program is serving lunches to kids enrolled in the Boys & Girls Clubs of Napa Valley Summer Day Camp which has three locations of small-group Boys & Girls Club camps, two in Napa and one in American Canyon,” said Mark Kuhnhausen, executive director, Boys & Girls Clubs of Napa Valley.
“Usually our clubs serve 800 kids per day; with COVID we can only have 50 kids per location, it is very complicated,” Kuhnhausen said. “We need help at our clubs, but the restaurants need help too. They are vital to this community, they give to every charity, they give to our silent auction fundraisers. This coalition, which helps us and helps them, seemed like the right and natural thing to do.”
Children of first-responders and essential workers, and fostered and homeless kids are the priority recipients of Feed Napa Now. Kuhnhausen has seen donations of time and services with the restaurant community simply leaning in to help.
“This is a strange time, but we also see the bright side, there are a lot of people that want to help, and sometimes that gets overshadowed. Who knows what will come out of this? Our boys and girls could be inspired by a chef who is helping them and their family through a difficult time.”
The heart and mission of Feed Napa Now is to have a system in place for the long term, to take care of the people of Napa, when needs arise. Feed Napa Now allows the restaurant community to continue to do what culinary professionals do best: feed people.
To make a donation, visit ThePositivePlace.org – Click on “Donate Today” and select the “Feed Napa Now Initiative” or click directly to the donation page. For more information call (707) 255-8866 or send an email to FeedNapaNow@ThePositivePlace.org.
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