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Cook It Forward Aims To Be An Agent For Covid Recovery In 2021

In 2021 Cook It Forward anticipates it will be able to quadruple the amount of free individually-packaged, chef-cooked, healthy meals delivered to households, including many families, seniors, and those with disabilities who are unable to have access to traditional pantries.

We will continue to fight food insecurity while uplifting the entire community food system including farmers, distributors, restaurant employees, delivery drivers, local nonprofits, and direct response providers as needed. We anticipate many restaurants will get on their feet with a second round of stimulus, and the restaurant industry will increasingly get stronger as vaccinations become more prevalent and infection rates decrease. At that time, restaurants in our network will pivot from being a Recipient of donor contributions (to support their workers and pay their rent) to becoming a Contributor to Cook It Forward. We are developing criteria for our restaurants in 2021 so that our dollars are used as equitably as possible. This is the essence of what Cooking it Forward is about: cooking to support the entire food system with a focus on serving those in need.

The result with this new model in 2021 is that Cook It Forward will fulfill our original mission to produce and distribute healthy, fresh meals for those experiencing food insecurity and:

  • increasing our support of nonprofit community kitchens

  • bringing on more restaurant partners

  • producing many times the amount of donated meals thereby creating more impact in the community

2020 proved that by using technology and embracing ‘mobile’, restaurants can collaborate collectively to fight hunger

Cook It Forward was launched in June of 2020 as a first-of collaboration in Madison between local restaurants and local nonprofits to create an end-to-end distribution network to tackle food insecurity. We partnered with Madison restaurants to produce healthy, fresh individually-packaged meals to local food banks, pantries, and other sites, serving as an intermediary. Last-mile distribution partners ensured that the growing number of individuals and families who needed the food, and without recourse to access it, received it.

As the world went mobile, so did we. 2020 taught us that meals can be mobile, individually-packed and delivered safely to those in need with the right partners. We focused on partnering with restaurants that share our values of inclusivity, humility and community, and nonprofit partners that provide community-driven guidance so that we can deliver food equitably, and to specific food access areas in need.

2020 proved that chefs play a critical role in ensuring food is delicious, health conscious, and culturally sensitive.

Food is medicine, and our restaurant partners signed onto produce meals that promote a diet rich in vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and healthy proteins, which lowers the risk of weight gain and chronic disease. We curated the meals to be culturally-conscious, always providing vegetarian options with careful use of pork and other animal proteins to be sensitive to respective communities’ tastes and appetites. In 2021, we will be rolling out a platform to gather reviews on the meals we produce.

Examples of healthy, balanced meals in 2020 included:

  • Moroccan Grilled Chicken Leg & Thighs with Brown Rice, Harvest

  • Roast Turkey on Focaccia with baby greens and summer squash, Casetta Kitchen and Counter

  • Irie Roots Beef Patty Plate, Madtown Food Services, LLC

  • Whipped hummus bowl with grilled chicken thigh, olive oil, feta, sumac grilled eggplant and cucumber relish, Merchant

  • Teriyaki Chicken with Vegetables and Brown Rice, Morris Ramen

  • Chickpea stew with chicken, side salad with honey balsamic dressing, and baguette, Ancora Coffee

  • Vegetable Curry with Jasmine Rice, Banzo

  • Lentil mushroom shepherd's pie, side of brussel sprouts, La Kitchenette

2020 proved that in order for restaurants to fight food insecurity, we need to acknowledge and equitably pay the whole food system including farmers, distributors, restaurant employees, delivery drivers, local nonprofits, and direct response providers.

In 2020, we supported Farmers & Distributors. In six months, we were able to generate over $50,000 in revenue for local farms, producers and distributors. Our goal will be $100,000 in revenue for farmers and distributors in 2021.

We supported restaurants when they needed us most. Restaurants and community kitchens in the CIF network got paid $10/meal to produce individually packaged meals. By working directly with restaurants and providing demand for the restaurant business, we helped uplift an industry that needs all of their help to keep their doors open. A total of $154,100 was paid to our restaurant partners, resulting in $51,000 towards employee labor and $51,311 towards local purveyors and farmers.

2020 proved that social equity and social justice are critical when addressing our food system and need to be at the table in every conversation regarding our community.

We delivered to partnering local food banks and community centers and supported 'Last Mile' Delivery Providers (85% service providers are black- and brown-led nonprofits). We contributed $64,722 to 6 unique last mile service providers benefiting community outreach programs including FOSTER, Urban Triage, Me to We, Freedom, Inc., and EOTO+. Our goal will be $125,000 to our last mile service providers.

2020 proved that social entrepreneurship is powerful in Madison as many types of businesses and funders collaborated together.

Cook It Forward itself is a collaboration of for-profit restaurants, community kitchens, caterers, and non-profit partners. Our donors were equally diverse from community-minded individuals, small business, and corporations to government agencies, and other nonprofits in Madison.

In 2020, we raised over $325,000 in donations from 620 unique donation sources. We are proud to have met over $100,000 in individual donations.

In 2021, we will continue to pursue our original funding goals, however, increase our individual donorship goals to $200,000. We have an exciting grant award from the City of Madison that we will be announcing shortly.

  • Critical Funding Partners (over $25k) included: American Family Insurance, Zendesk, and Exact Sciences

  • Major Sponsors ($10k - 25k) included: Taste of Madison Gives Back, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, The Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation, and FPC Live

  • Supporting Sponsors ($5k-10k) included: Epic, Metcalfe’s Market, Diane Kostecke & Nancy Ciezki, Mead & Hunt, Summit Credit Union, gener8tor, Dane County Credit Union, Kendra S. Schaefer, DMD, LLC, Mark Gladue, Morgan Stanley, the Data for Impact 2020, Park Bank, Willy Street Co-op, UW Credit Union, Perdue Family Foundation, MG&E Foundation

  • $126,000 was donationed from 557 individuals

We are excited for 2021 to be a transitionary year as our restaurants network becomes healthier and Cook It Forward creates more impact, working to become part of a long term solution to enlist restaurants and our partners to fight food insecurity in Madison.

Media Contacts:

Joshua Berkson, Principal, Rule No. One Hospitality (646) 221-4022

Francesca Hong, Chef/Co-Owner, Morris Ramen, (608) 772-6599

Mel Trudeau, Donor Development, Cook It Forward, (608) 239-5474

Alnisa Allgood, Executive Director of Collaboration for Good, (608) 241-3616

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