Local Chefs and Food Organizations Prepare Free Thanksgiving Meals to 1,000 Detroit Families
Over the past six days, a local coalition of chefs, bakers, nonprofits, volunteers, and food rescue organizations have come together to prepare Thanksgiving meals for 1,000 families in Detroit. Chef Phil Jones, founder of upcoming food service Farmacy Food, is helping lead the project. Between 50 and 60 volunteers will be serving meals to insecure families across the city on Wednesday November 25th at Jefferson Avenue Presbyterian Church.
Speaking on the phone from the commercial kitchen at the Marygrove Conservancy in the Fitzgerald neighborhood of northwest Detroit, Jones described a tremendous effort by partners who had started organizing nearly six weeks ago. On Friday, November 20, many volunteers, including chefs and bakers like Ederique Goudia of Gabriel Hall, Deveri Gifford of Brooklyn Street Local, and Experience Relish partners Brittany Peeler and Le’Genevieve Squires, began the tedious process of making a turkey dish for around 5,000 people. On the menu: roast turkey donated by Cherry Capital Foods, plus stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, and sweet potato souffle.
“People find common ground in the crisis, in these tragic times there is still something beautiful in it.”
Jones has been involved in major food distribution efforts throughout the pandemic, including a summer project where he and volunteers cooked and gave away US $ 100,000 of chicken through Make Food, Not Waste and Food Rescue. However, given the growing economic challenges posed by the pandemic, Jones sees an even greater need for food aid in Detroit. “There has always been a need for food, even before COVID. [in Detroit]and it’s becoming increasingly important with COVID, ”says Jones. “Unemployment is now on the decline, the second incentive has not occurred – and at that point it might not have occurred at all – and the cost of living has not changed,” he notes. “And when you can get a meal and some ingredients that you don’t have to take out of your budget, people are so grateful.”
Jones says that despite the horrors of the pandemic and the resulting economic misery, by providing the community with food, he saw the good in a challenging situation. “That may sound strange, but the distribution of food has become a social event. We keep seeing the same faces … and a community has been created, ”he says. “People find common ground in the crisis. In these tragic times, this is still something beautiful.” He adds, “We are at a time when it means a lot to people just to know that you are loved.”
Ederique Goudia of upcoming Gabriel Hall restaurant and Le’Genevieve Squires of Experience Relish Catering help get a turkey out of the oven at Marygrove Conservancy Kitchen in Detroit. David Rudolph [Courtesy photo]
Jones’ work focuses on creating communities that are healthier and more resilient through food, which he seeks to bring to the fore with Farmacy Food. Originally intended as a restaurant, the startup has changed due to the pandemic and the changing needs of Detroiters. “When COVID hit, the [Farmacy Food model] was at risk because restaurants were closing and we didn’t want to be part of that problem, ”he says.
Instead, Farmacy Food switched gears to focus on creating a subscription meal plan and retail locations in small businesses like cafes without full kitchens. One of the first distribution locations will be Detroit Sip on West McNichols Road near the Marygrove campus. “We want to compete with fast food, and we do so in terms of pricing and convenience,” he says. “One of the things you want people to understand is that it’s a simple process.”
“We want people to embrace farmacy food as a way of life, not as a night out.”
Farmacy Food is also developing a responsive, community-oriented app component that subscribers can use to enter their personal health goals, interact with other subscribers and share their food experiences. “We want people to embrace farmacy food as a way of life, not a night out,” he says.
In contrast to the diet culture, which typically focuses on limiting calories and associating negative feelings with food, Jones’ approach focuses on what he calls “mindful eating for the loved one.” The chef describes this as a different, more conscious way of thinking about food and how individuals deal with it. “You will find that just loving your food and loving yourself will get more results,” he says. “And this is something that will have tremendous health benefits in color communities.” Jones adds that color communities are often overlooked, or when targeting healthy eating programs, those programs are usually directed and designed by people outside the community who control the resources. Jones wants to see this change.
The company works with the Marygrove Conservancy, which has granted Jones and his team the use of their kitchen facilities. As part of this collaboration, Farmacy Food will also act as an incubator for food companies and a training facility for hotel professionals.
Jones anticipates that Farmacy Foods can be launched in some form or another in the next two to three weeks. In the meantime, he focuses on Thanksgiving and the difficult weeks for families with unsafe diets. Jones recommends that people interested in fighting food insecurity should contact one of the many local organizations that distribute food in the area, including organizations like Food Rescue USA and Hazon: the Jewish Sustainability Laboratory.
“The need is real and I hate to say that, it will get worse. And so we have to redouble our efforts. ”
• A trio of Detroit restaurants are offering pay-what-you-can meals to small businesses on Saturday [ED]
• How to help combat food insecurity and support restaurants in Detroit [ED]
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