Feeding the hungry is nothing new for Flori Pate, co-founder of Food Connection in Asheville, North Carolina.
Pate and her crew rescue unused food from restaurants and festivals and deliver it to those in need. But ever since the state shuttered dining rooms in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, the organization’s food supply has dropped significantly.
Meanwhile, the number of those hungry in Western North Carolina is increasing by the day.
The team behind Wicked Weed Brewing’s new restaurant, Cultura, found themselves in similar catch-22 amid the coronavirus pandemic. So, with plenty of cooks and empty seats, they shifted to feeding not paying customers, but their neighbors in need.
Given their proximity and shared mission, it was only a matter of time before Food Connection and Cultura joined forces. In March, they teamed up with the YMCA of WNC to meet the growing demand for free meals in the region.
Together, with the help of donations from food distribution company U.S. Foods, they were able to move about 900 meals over a three-day period, the Asheville Citizen-Times reports.
Little did they know, that that was just the beginning.
Since then, an anonymous donor gifted $200,000 to Food Connection to cover food and distribution costs. The mysterious good Samaritan also made a separate donation to the YMCA, allowing the team to feed a whopping 5,000 people a week. It also enabled Cultura to bring some employees back to work.
And it’s good food too. Saturday’s menu reportedly included smoked trout, corn pudding, and green beans.
In addition to out-of-work industry workers, the team has sent meals to Big Ivy Community Center in Barnardsville; Trinity Place for Runaway Youth; and Homeward Bound of WNC’s temporary shelter at Harrah’s Cherokee Center.
As for the anonymous donation that made all this possible, Pate still doesn’t know who is behind it—just that they enjoyed dining at Cultura, she told the Citizen-Times.
Pate also shared message for the anonymous donor with the paper: “We see the faces each day and the beautiful impact that your generosity is making within Western Carolina,” she said. “We are forever grateful to you.”
To make your own contribution, visit Food-Connection.org/purchase-meals.