When Nicole Gillota-Brichacek, owner of Gypsy Beans & Baking Company, 6425 Detroit Ave., learned back in mid-March that her neighbor, Banter Beer & Wine, 7320 Detroit Ave., was feeding neighborhood children free of charge, she jumped on board.
“When Governor DeWine closed the schools, our neighbor Banter offered boxed lunches for school kids,” recalls Gillota-Brichacek. “I said, ‘great, we’ll do Thursdays.”
Within 24 hours of posting a message on Facebook, the two businesses had 21,000 interactions. “It proved to me how much the was a need for something like that,” Gillota-Brichacek says. “So, we were serving 90 to 100 hot meals every Thursday.”
Frank’s Falafel House Jessica Trivisonno, director of economic development for the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization (DSCDO) started to take notice of the need too—both for small businesses forced to close because of COVID-19 and families out of work with kids who were not getting meals at school.
Trivisonno took action and applied for the Cleveland Foundation’s COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund grant. In April, the DSCDO was awarded $56,000 to compensate small businesses for no-cost meals provided to children and low-income individuals on Cleveland’s near west side.
“[Trivisonno's] main concern was on local businesses looking to make a match between local business and residents,” recalls Josh Jones, DSCDO marketing director. “Our businesses get paid to make free meals, which we heard is a need in our community right now.”
Starting yesterday, Monday, June 8, DSCDO and Cudell Improvement, Inc. will compensate six local restaurant owners to provide 7,200 free meals to Detroit Shoreway, Cudell, and Edgewater residents for the next eight weeks.
“The meals are open to anyone,” says Jones. “They are open to anyone, regardless of home address, income level, or age. There is a lot of free food right now for students, seniors, or those experiencing homelessness.”
Each day, one participating restaurant will distribute 150 meals between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., or until the meals run out.
Jones reports that yesterday, all 150 meals at Banter were taken before the 2 p.m. end time. He says each meal is prepackaged and passed out while following proper social distancing guidelines.
Gypsy Beans’ Gillota-Brichacek says they are trying to provide hot meals to each person who comes through the door. She says she has planned dishes like macaroni and cheese with pulled chicken; chicken paprikash; pasta bake; corned beef sandwiches; and enchilada bake. She says they are also handing out fresh fruit and some sort of bread.
In addition to the grant money, Gillota-Brichacek adds that community members, such as Stockyard Meats, have come forward with donations or other offers of help.
“What is amazing is so many people in the neighborhood stepped up with $20—a couple people gave $100—and [Cleveland City] councilman Matt Zone gave us money,” she says. “It’s a really neat thing to be a part of a community that has taken care of me for so many years. We’ve been so blessed to stay open and the grant allows us to stay open for the rest of the summer. So, now I can give back.”
The free meals schedule is:
Mondays: Banter Beer & Wine (7320 Detroit Avenue).
Tuesdays: Rincon Criollo at Dudley Triangle pocket park (West 73rd Street and Dudley Avenue).
Wednesdays: Pulp Juice and Smoothie Bar at Good Earth Farm Stand (9600 Madison Avenue).
Thursdays: Gypsy Beans & Baking Co. (6425 Detroit Avenue).
Fridays: Frank’s Falafel House (1823 West 65th Street).
Saturdays: Ninja City Kitchen and Bar (6706 Detroit Avenue).