Community Carry Out raises more than $300,000, extends program for St. Louis restaurants providing meals to food agencies

At the end of 2020, Liz Kniep Engelsmann, co-owner of fine wine and spirits distributor Pinnacle Imports, had the idea to help both the hospitality professionals in St. Louis and the local authorities fight food insecurity. By putting in place a system of channeling donations to restaurants across the community, money that organizations and individuals would normally spend on holiday parties in no pandemic times, it would help keep the restaurant staff going by feeding the hungry.

Just two months later, that idea, Community Carry Out, is a complete success and a lifeline for the St. Louis restaurant industry and food agencies facing the challenges of COVID-19.

Since Thanksgiving, the program has raised more than $ 311,000 that has been distributed to 43 local restaurants. These restaurants in turn have delivered 15,000 meals to 18 regional agencies. In fact, Community Carry Out has been so successful that the program has been extended beyond the March 30 deadline and grants will continue to be given to restaurants as long as the money continues to flow.

“We have received really generous notes from restaurateurs who indicate that the money has changed the game,” says Kniep Engelsmann. “They were so grateful that they did a useful job. There is a generosity in this industry and they have been able to use their people to do something useful in the community. This was an opportunity to return to that sensitivity of service. “

The grocery agencies benefiting from the program have also joined the initiative, which works in partnership with the St. Louis Community Foundation. The feedback has been largely positive, according to Bob Marshak, who is on the program’s advisory board and helps link restaurants with agencies.

“People loved it,” says Marshak. “These pantries and organizations sell groceries, but this is restaurant food with the aim of providing healthy food that is locally sourced to the greatest possible extent. I think we achieved these goals. I’ve spoken to a few organizations who told me that their customers loved it because this wasn’t just something cobbled together, but a meal made by a local restaurant. People just loved her. “

Joy Christensen, owner of The Fountain on Locust and a fellow Community Carry Out grant recipient, is encouraged by the feedback she has received. “As a restaurant trying to deal with the next day for a year, we immediately saw this program as awesome and were so grateful that we could take part,” Christensen Kniep Englesmann explained in a note in which he himself thanked for the opportunity. “We delivered 250 meals to City of Hope and the whole process was so seamless that it was actually stress free and enjoyable. Of course, we were still concerned about what would happen if the food got out of our hands. We provided the requested ice cream and hot fudge for dessert so we worried about how this would get out of our hands but heard back that they loved it and couldn’t be happier and wanted to do it again at some point! It was a great blessing for everyone involved. “

Both Kniep Englesmann and Marshak were delighted with how seamless the program has been so far. With the infrastructure built, the challenge now is to keep the momentum and fundraising as long as possible. They recently received a $ 100,000 donation from Ameren, who have become a corporate sponsor of the program. However, they emphasize that they are also grateful for every single donation of $ 15 that has contributed to the success of the program. They hope to continue sharing their efforts, including a feature on the PBS affiliate show Living St. Louis in St. Louis, which airs at 7 p.m. tonight. To raise awareness, they hope more people will help meet vital needs in the US community.

“That really showed me how important it is to organize on the grassroots,” says Kniep Engelsmann. “A small group of people can work so hard to do this amazing job for the community. This is a small slice of the local economy. When you take money that would have gone to these companies and give them the money to do the job they would have done, it will stimulate their employees and benefit the community. “

Donations to Community Carryout can be made through the St. Louis Community Foundation website. Checks can also be sent to the St. Louis Community Foundation, 2 Oak Knoll Park, Clayton, MO 63105. (Be sure to note “Community Carry Out” in the memo.) The program also accepts online donations via PayPal and credit card.

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