Little John’s halting most operations amid high costs, lack of workspace

A Dane County community kitchen is forced to cease most of its operations temporarily amid funding issues and a lack of a workspace.
Published: Jan. 23, 2023 at 3:04 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 23, 2023 at 8:09 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A Dane County community kitchen is forced to cease most of its operations temporarily amid funding issues and a lack of a workspace.

Little John’s attributed the temporary closure Monday to high food and labor costs. It also cited that the space it planned to work out of while its new space is being built is no longer an option.

Owner and Head Chef Dave Heide said they have exhausted every possibility on getting a new place to get cooking. They’ll now have to scale back from around 16,000-17,000 meals a week to 3,000, cutting down on the majority of the contracts they have and the number of employees.

“It has nothing to do with the quality of their work,” Heide said. “It’s just, we don’t, without having the new kitchen space or a big enough kitchen space, we can’t continue those big contracts that we had, which means we don’t have revenue coming in to sustain the employment of the staff. And it’s impossibly hard.”

Linda Kessel has been a recipient of Meals on Wheels for about a month since breaking her foot.

“It was kind of shocking, because I count on those things, those meals,” Kessel said. “I’m sure a lot of people do. So you know, it was a big surprise that I’m just amazed that it would happen overnight like that.”

Kessel said she was fortunate that her daughter was helping her in the meantime. She also said she does not have much interaction on the daily basis but made a connection with those who delivered her meals.

“You kind of know each other--for people like me who don’t have a lot of contact. It was something I looked forward to,” Kessel said.

In a statement from SSM Health, a spokesperson said SSM Health at Home is one of the agencies that has to pause its Meals on Wheels delivery due to Little Johns halting its production and was notified of the change Monday.

“Deliveries are being temporarily paused beginning January 24, 2023,” SSM Health stated. “We are working diligently to identify an alternate caterer and resume delivery as soon as possible. Our teams are proactively reaching out to meal recipients and volunteers as quickly as possible. We will continue to keep recipients and our volunteers informed.”

The SSM Health at Home’s Meals on Wheels program delivers midday meals to about 300 seniors, Monday through Friday, to those in Madison, Middleton and Monona.

Little Johns apologized and said it would do its best to continue to serve the community. It also explained that it will resume operations in full force once it has enough space and funding to continue.

The nonprofit was looking to lease a large catering or production-style kitchen for the next 12-18 months while its new facility in Fitchburg is being constructed.

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