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Madison Cook It Forward initiative helps keep restaurant doors open, fight food insecurity amid pandemic

The project is collaboration with local non-profits partnering with downtown restaurants to deliver meals to those in need.
Published: Aug. 30, 2020 at 7:38 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - As restaurants fight to keep doors open, and people work to keep food on the table, Cook It Forward Madison is helping the community stay afloat during the ongoing pandemic.

The initiative works by paying restaurants to provide individually packaged, fresh meals for those who need them. In turn, the restaurants keep their doors open and employees working.

In it’s ninth week, the project has served more than 5,000 meals.

Francesca Hong, the co-founder of the project and co-owner of Morris Ramen in Madison, said the whole idea is to help restaurants eco-systems and bring food to neighbors during the crisis.

“It is an end-to-end distribution network that purchases meals from restaurants to get the meals to folks in need,” she said.

The executive director of Kennedy Heights Community Center on Madison’s North side, Patrina White, said they are just one of the several non-profits collaborating to deliver the meals. She said their center is surrounded by more than 100 apartments, and a lot of the people living there are low to moderate income.

“A lot of folks cannot just go out and get food, so this actually gave us the opportunity to knock on the resident’s door and hand them a meal,” she said.

White said the opportunity to participate in the initiative, has given them a chance to connect with the community they serve even more.

“It is just an opening to really having good conversations not only about what is going on in their life, but just the fact that the food was good for them,” she said.

Hong said because of a lack of funding, only nine at a time can participate.

“I would say right now, we are looking at needing between $12,000 to $15,000 dollars a week in order to continue the program,” she said.

Hong said the hope, is to see the program grow, sustain and be a model for other communities during a trying time.

“With this program, it is not only bringing sustenance and nourishment to our neighbors in need, but it is really looking at how we can connect and collaborate better as a community,” she said.

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