KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With the COVID-19 pandemic approaching the one-year mark, a new initiative aims to connect the organizations feeding those who are hungry, while also helping struggling Kansas City-area restaurants stay afloat.
FeedKC Forward is the brainchild of restaurant advocate and KCUR food panelist, Mary Bloch, but the collective wouldn’t be possible without the teamwork of The Prospect Urban Eatery and Kanbe’s Market.
"This is not the time to give up,” Carmen Vajgrt, director of development at Kanbe's Market, said.
The Greater Kansas City Community Foundation is collecting donations for FeedKC Forward. Grants are distributed through Kanbe’s Market.
"We need to help people out and, every time I talk about people who are in need, I get very emotional,” said Sohaila Humayon of Sohalia’s Kitchen. “It has been a very tough year for everyone.”
Sohaila’s Kitchen, which has served homemade Pakistani food in the Lenexa Public Market since 2018, is among the thousands of people and businesses still facing health and economic challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Humayon was one of the first restaurateurs to join the FeedKC Forward project.
"There are people who need our help and I feel this is the best way to help them by giving them at least one meal," Humayon said.
Shanita McAfee Bryant, who has been a chef for more than 20 years and is the founder of The Prospect Urban Eatery, said systemic issues of access historically have separated some groups of people from affordable, healthy food.
It's a problem that goes hand in hand with health, especially in impoverished communities.
"We can put health clinics all over the city on every single corner, but if we don't address what people are putting in or on their bodies, it's not really going to create any type of outcomes,” Bryant said.
FeedKC Forward aims to bridge that gap at a critical time.
Restaurants can apply to FeedKC Forward, agreeing to make 250 or 500 meals in exchange for $5,000 or $10,000 in grant money. Bloch has helped the program raise more than $150,000.
The program will pair the restaurant with a community organization that applies to receive food assistance from FeedKC Forward.
“It's designed so that there's enough cushion within the grant that allows the restaurant to have a little bit of money left over for operating capital and whatever expenses they would need while they're waiting for this next round of funding,” Bryant, who helps match restaurant applicants with community organizations that feed those in need, said.
To help keep food costs down, Kanbe’s provides produce and makes the last-mile delivery to the organization.
"That's kind of the beauty of the organizations that have come together over COVID is we are all figuring out that there is so much more work that can be done when we do it together,” Vajgrt said.
The community organizations feeding the hungry often are part of an organization that provides additional services, “but they always provide that hot meal,” Bryant said.
Morning Star Baptist Church feeds hundred of people every week. They are one of the organizations that was paired with a restaurant through FeedKC Forward.
“It's just terrific,” Pastor John Miles said. "In fact, most of the time, and I think all the time, they're completely hot, not just warm."
Those involved believe in the mission and the importance of helping those who need a hand
"People should not go hungry to sleep," Humayon said. "They need to have a warm meal before they go to sleep."
FeedKC Forward’s first meals are expected to go out the first week in February.
To support FeedKC Forward, donations can be made through the Greater Kansas City Community Fund.
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