Community Carry Out helps St. Louis restaurants and area food banks
Liz Kniep Engelsmann is co-owner of the distributor of fine wine and spirits Pinnacle Imports and has developed from a business partner to a friend of many restaurateurs in the region. As a result, it has been particularly difficult for them to watch their companies struggle during the COVID-19 pandemic. “They’re not just my customers; They are also my friends and colleagues, ”says Kniep Engelsmann. “It was devastating to see that.”
Instead of sitting on the sidelines, Kniep Engelsmann is now taking matters into his own hands. With the help of the St. Louis Community Foundation, she recently launched Community Carry Out, which aims to support local restaurants by giving them the resources to help others.
The concept came about Thanksgiving. Rather than making a donation to a charitable organization as usual, Kniep Engelsmann considered whether it would be more effective to donate to some of her favorite restaurants, which in turn could help feed those in need. She realized that others who had the resources might be willing to do the same.
“Part of the initial thought was, ‘OK, there are tons of companies that don’t entertain customers, don’t have big Christmas parties this year, and don’t spend their budget on indoor meals to do their day-to-day business.’ “If only part of that budget were used for this initiative, some of the money that normally goes through the restaurant industry at this time of year would go back into the water.”
She turned to several restaurateurs who supported the idea. She began raising money through her own network and eventually joined the St. Louis Community Foundation, whose nonprofit status and infrastructure helped turn her idea into a real initiative. The program has already raised $ 42,000. Once it hits $ 50,000, an anonymous donor has pledged to increase that amount to $ 25,000.
For every $ 100 that companies or individuals commit, five meals are contributed. For every $ 1,000 donated 50 meals, and so on. Donations are 100 percent tax deductible.
Restaurants can apply for grants of either $ 5,000 or $ 10,000, depending on the grant amount, with 250 or 500 meals prepared for food aid agencies in the city that have worked with the program, including Urban League of Metropolitan Saint Louis and several regional food banks. The Community Carry Out team also collects information from these agencies about their needs.
“This gives restaurants the opportunity to work meaningfully with their skills and know-how,” says Kniep Engelsmann. “It is dignified to accept the grant because you can pay your employees to come in, prepare meals, package and deliver.”
Kniep Engelsmann plans to run the initiative until spring, but hopes that the program will last longer. For now, she is encouraged that the program provide a mechanism for restaurants to find additional relief while serving the community at the same time.
“So many people work in this industry and have lost their income,” says Kniep Engelsmann. “If we want unemployment to fall and the economy to pick up, we have to spend money, as we normally would, to do it. This is an opportunity to get some of that cash flow to where it would normally be. Not only are you helping the St. Louis economy and some unemployed people, but also helping the most vulnerable who are hardest hit by a pandemic. “
For more information on Community Carry Out, including how restaurants can apply for grants, please visit the program’s Facebook page.