New emergency food access program to provide meals to those in need in Travis County

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Travis County is working with local food suppliers to both provide meals to those and need and give some service industry workers a chance for work.

The county approved a $160,000 contract in which it will pay for several people in the food industry who are out of work right now to cook meals, using food that is being unused in local warehouses. The money will also go toward buying the food from warehouses at a reduced rate.

Joi Chevalier, who is the founder of culinary incubator The Cook’s Nook, is leading the program, which is set to last through May 31st, while large food suppliers aren’t outputting their supply. Chevalier says a large amount of food that would generally be used by hotels, schools, campuses, hospitals, arenas and restaurants is currently sitting in warehouses, going to waste.

Restaurant employees will begin preparing ready to heat and eat meals in Chevalier’s commercial kitchen this weekend. They will work with more than 30 local non-profits to distribute the meals to families in need.

Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea told KXAN the county is also working to make the meals accessible to members of the community through its seven community centers, and she instructs anyone in need to contact one of the centers.

“It was too great an idea not to have it work,” Shea said.

Chevalier said the idea, which was bread by a number of people in the local food industry, will be successful largely in part to the community where it’s debuting.

“We’re going to be the first to be able to do this and spin it around that fast,” Chevalier said of the program, which came together in just a matter of weeks. “To have come up with it amongst ourselves and to be able to do that that only happens–that’s Travis county. I mean, that’s Travis county.”

Chevalier and several people she employs will begin making the meals Sunday. They plan to make 700 a day at first, then eventually expand to making as many as 1,600 meals a day.

After a few weeks, the county may expand the program to a couple of additional commercial kitchens and, in turn, hire additional food service workers.

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