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Community Plates

Lunch is hardly the most inspiring meal of the day. It lacks the depth of dinner, the boldness of breakfast, and is often little more than a midday dividing line marked with another boring burger eaten on the go. I’ll admit, that’s my routine too, eating lunch in my lap while waiting at a stoplight. [...]
J.R. McMillan

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Lunch is hardly the most inspiring meal of the day. It lacks the depth of dinner, the boldness of breakfast, and is often little more than a midday dividing line marked with another boring burger eaten on the go.

I’ll admit, that’s my routine too, eating lunch in my lap while waiting at a stoplight. But today I picked up a stack of pizzas, a few dozen baked potatoes, three gallons of clam chowder, some crab legs, and a pile of bagels, scones, and coffee cakes. So much, I barely fit it all in my car. Yet, I didn’t eat any of it—and lunch has never been more inspiring.

That’s because I started “running” for Community Plates, a volunteer corps of drivers who close the gap between restaurants that throw leftover food away and shelters and food pantries that desperately need it.

“Once you do your first run, you’re kind of hooked,” confessed Susan Keiser-Smith, the organizer for Community Plates in Columbus. “The person who started it here was my neighbor, so I originally volunteered as a runner. She was a student also working full-time and eventually asked, ‘Would you like to take this over?’ So, I did.”

Community Plates offers a streamlined solution to a complex problem: plenty of restaurants have extra food and ingredients at the end of the day, but no practical way to deliver them consistently to organizations that can put them to good use. Improvised and ad hoc solutions tend to fail or fall short over time—like a well-intentioned machine, just not a well-oiled one. Every microwave oven on the planet has a button for popcorn, yet we still lack the technology to redirect food destined for the dumpster to folks who are hungry.

Founder Jeff Schacher had drifted into software development after a stint as an aspiring actor and part-time waiter in New York. His software company now helps restaurants manage labor and inventory throughout the country. Executive Director Kevin Mullins was a pastor whose passion for fighting America’s growing hunger crisis was inspired by his children. They and their classmates had organized to pool their lunch leftovers together to send home with fellow students who may not have had enough to eat for dinner.

And that was the impetus for the idea. Connect people with a few clicks and allow them to organize themselves. Community Plates was created to be push-button simple, just like microwave popcorn.

Signing up is just as simple. In less than five minutes, I’d logged onto their website, created my volunteer profile and was on my way to my first run. From your smartphone, you can easily see where and when food needs to be picked up, where it needs to go and how close both locations are to your regular route or destination. Imagine Uber meets Meals on Wheels.

“We now have more than 300 runners signed up in Columbus, and between 50 to 70 runs a week,” said Keiser-Smith. “When I started, I thought it would mostly be students. But there are a lot of retirees as well.”

“When I got to the Whole Foods at Easton for the first time, there was a receiving manager who directed me to the loading dock and all of their bread was clearly labeled,” noted Richard Hood, a recent volunteer who also happens to be an Uber driver and independent broker for outsource manufacturing.

The familiar convergence of simplicity and efficiency found in Community Plates was not lost on him.

“My first run was to Faith Mission downtown. A lady in chef’s coat came out and her face lit up,” he explained. “I’m out there driving anyway, so why not put some of those miles toward helping people?”

“One of the design features of Community Plates is that you can take a single run. The commitment is literally only to do it once,” Hood noted. “Then you can then adopt a run, which means you’re committing to do that same run however often they need it.”

“If you adopt a run, and say you’re going on vacation or can’t get it for some reason, you can drop the run and someone else will pick it up that one time,” Keiser-Smith explained further. She said most runs are eventually adopted, but new donors are always creating new ones. Current Columbus donors include notable local and national names, like Cameron Mitchell restaurants, Hot Chicken Takeover, Pistacia Vera, City Barbeque, Red Lobster, Starbucks, Little Caesar’s, and Bob Evans.

“Most of the shelters and food pantries are downtown, so that tends to be where most of our runs are delivered,” Keiser-Smith said. “But there are also food pantries in Dublin, Worthington, and Westerville. Some people think there isn’t as much need in the suburbs, but there is—much more than you think.”

To get involved, run on over to communityplates.org/columbus-oh

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Food & Drink

Katalina’s owner leading charge for independent restaurant owners

614Now

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Known for her famous Pancake Balls (ridiculously delish, BTW), Katalina Day, the namesake behind Katalina's, is urging Gov. DeWine to consider emergency financial lifelines for her industry.

Restaurants were among the first and most devastated industries impacted by the coronavirus. Many notable local brands, such as Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, have closed most operations. According to Day, the industry needs immediate government intervention to survive.

Day started a Change.org petition which articulates the unique and specific challenges faced by the industry and the people who rely on it for their livelihood.

Addressing Gov. Dewine for relief, the petition is closing in on 1,000 signatures

"We have followed orders to close our doors to protect our communities, knowing what it would mean for our businesses, and we are grateful as citizens that you were one of the first to foresee that necessity. We did so without protest, and those of us who remain open are providing a valuable service through delivery, despite it being increasingly less profitable (as delivery services infringe on any profit)." said Day in the petition.

The petition closes with: "Bottom line: From our employees to our vendors and landlords to the burden on the healthcare industry and government, there is not a part of society that will not be touched by this crisis. "

Given these unprecedented challenges, please immediately consider:

  • Emergency grants for immediate business needs such as payroll and crucial operating expenses including food orders and utilities. 
  • Commercial and residential rent abatement and a moratorium on evictions both for owners and employees. 
  • Immediate cash relief for current and laid-off employees.
  • Abatement of payroll and sales tax.
  • Temporary commercial and government loan payment relief.
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Food & Drink

Carry Out Guide to help support local restaurants

614Now

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Local restaurants provide more than just nourishment - they're where we get together with friends, celebrate our special moments and provide a cultural window to the world through food. They've added to your life experience in ways you may have never thought about until now. They are an integral part of our way of life.

Right now, they need you more than ever. Please do everything you can to support our neighbors and friends by calling in to order pick-up or online delivery.

We've put together the Carry Out Guide to help you find quick ideas for your next meal along with updated hours of service and easy ways to contact them. The Guide features six of each restaurants top to-go items and we provide links to their full carry-out menus.

Please open the Daily (614) email for new restaurant additions for the Guide.

Stay safe and thank you for stepping up for the people who need you most right now.


View the Guide

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Food & Drink

Too Good To Eat: Watershed Distillery’s Short Rib

@findyourfork

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Innovative. Sophisticated. Illuminating.

Those are the words I would use to describe the wondrous attraction that is Watershed Distillery Kitchen and Bar. Aptly named “Watershed,” this local distillery-meets-restaurant is the gathering place for cocktail aficionados, snack enthusiasts, and secret adventurers. Take a step inside and you will be immediately transported away from the comforts of the Ohio Midwest and into a atmosphere fitting of the elegance of an east coast eatery.

Watershed boasts semiannual drink menus that draw the eye of the beholder with unique themes that bring a whole new meaning to flair. But one of the lesser known attractions found in this kitchen is the braised beef short rib.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B7L9aNfA84j/?igshid=1wwmf5j0tsv1y

Perfectly tender and beautifully seasoned, this dish is one that leaves the masses yearning for more. One bite in and the meat falls smoothly off the bone, leaving the opportunity for bone-licking and lip smacking to commence. Within seconds, you'll find yourself with an empty plate and a full belly.

Welcome to Watershed.

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