By Mike Kinney
A Richmond Main Street Initiative-led program providing restaurant-quality food to community members experiencing food insecurity has grown to provide 4,000 meals per week, with each meal accompanied by hand sanitizer, as well as a disposable mask donated by Target Richmond.
The meal giveaway program has gradually expanded since its first week of September, when 1,000 meals distributed over two days quickly ran out.
The effort distributes meals prepared by World Central Kitchen, recipient of an Eat Learn Play Foundation grant, along with the PPE, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Richmond PAL (RPAL) parking lot at 23rd Street and Exchange Place.
In October, the program will aim to serve 6,000 meals per week.
Today, volunteers from RPAL, the Iron Triangle Neighborhood Council and the Kiwanis Club happily passed out the meal kits to hundreds of people who came by car or foot to the parking lot.
“It is truly a beautiful thing to witness,” said Vivian Wong, executive director of RMSI. “Our volunteers do this because they all love the community.”
In addition to the giveaway events, the meal and PPE kits are delivered to housed and unhoused seniors and families in central and North Richmond, thanks to community partners including the Greater Richmond Interfaith Program (GRIP), North Richmond Missionary Baptist Church, Parchester Village and Richmond SOS, according to RMSI.
Meanwhile, RMSI is spearheading another community collaboration and fundraising effort to produce and provide additional PPE to community members and businesses, while also supporting local jobs. The Protect Lives & Livelihoods PPE campaign has tapped three businesses that employ dozens of residents and the Chevron-sponsored Fab Lab Richmond at Kennedy High to manufacture the PPE, including cloth masks, hand sanitizer, and face shields. The local businesses involved are Le Chat Nails, Leftside Printing and 5 Star Cleaners.
To fund the effort, RMSI aims to raise $20,000 in individual donations that will be matched by the Travis Credit Union Foundation’s COVID Relief Fund.
The clever program is working to bring multiple facets of the community together to support one another at a difficult time.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted Richmond residents, leaving many struggling to nourish and protect themselves and their families, ” RMSI Programs and Communications Manager Alicia Gallo said.
Added Robert Rogers, District Coordinator for County Supervisor John Gioia and a Richmond Main Street Board Member, “You truly see the best of our Richmond community when times are tough. There’s nothing more powerful than people coming together to help people.”
To support the effort, members of the community are encouraged to donate at this Travis Credit Union Foundation site, select Richmond Main Street and the TCU Fund will match it.