NBC 7 and Feeding San Diego have been working together to help support the hard-hit hospitality industry and locals facing hunger. One of the new initiatives Feeding San Diego has launched through the Spread Love San Diego campaign is the Gift a Meal program.
Select restaurants are offering a $15 Gift a Meal menu item to benefit a San Diegan in need of food. The program was designed to help generate revenue at struggling restaurants while providing meals for locals who are facing hunger, many for the very first time.
"I think that the way to recovery is the momentum of patrons wanting to give," said Chloe Fenney, a manager at Café Coyote in Old Town. "I think that’s really what it’s up to, is the people who are coming to our restaurant. It’s up them if this restaurant is going to survive, if our community is going to survive."
Fenney said the last few months have been crazy and uncertain for restaurant employees but that she’s grateful for her hardworking team, which has been navigating through closures and re-openings together.
Get San Diego local news, weather forecasts, sports and lifestyle stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC San Diego newsletters.
The restaurant manager said that when the owner of Café Coyote found out about Feeding San Diego’s Gift a Meal program, the business signed up right away.
“We've sold 20 meals so far," Fenney said. "We have a goal that every 20 meals we sell, we're adding five meals on top of that."
Once Gift a Meal menu items are purchased, Feeding San Diego receives an alert. Kerri Kolarik, the neighborhood-partnerships manager for Feeding San Diego, oversees how the food will be distributed by using the MealConnect app. MealConnect can be used by food donors -- like restaurants, hotels and businesses that are trying to get extra food -- or in this case, Gift a Meal items, to hungry San Diegans.
Kolarik said she or a Feeding San Diego volunteer driver delivers the food to one of more than 180 Feeding San Diego partners, who then help get the food into the hands of a San Diegan in need.
"We have a lot of partners who've been able to access this food for their community," Kolarik said.
Kolarik estimates that about 300 meals have been gifted so far. She's encouraging other restaurant owners and patrons to get involved.
"It's about being able to drive more business to their restaurants, and the community feels good giving back while they're dining out,” Kolarik said.
"One of the good things that came out of the pandemic is people's understanding of a community in need," Fenney said.
According to Feeding San Diego, more than 700,000 additional locals are now considered to be food-insecure, an increase of 50% since the start of the pandemic.
If you'd like to make a donation to Feeding San Diego to help keep programs alive, click here.