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'Cooking for Community' helps more restaurants and the less fortunate

The non-profit has grown from several hundred meals a week to several thousand, providing much-needed cash flow for restaurants amid the coronavirus pandemic.

PORTLAND, Maine — In April we told you about a new non-profit aimed at helping feed the needy and give a vibrant food scene in the Greater Portland area a fighting chance to be able to keep operating during the coronavirus pandemic

The program is growing after starting with just two restaurants and a few social service organizations. 

Inside the Public Market House, Mr. Tuna employees are serving up a lot of sushi. 

The ready-to-eat meals are headed to My Place Teen Center in Westbrook. 

The Portland restaurant is one of ten establishments in the greater Portland area helping feed the less fortunate during the pandemic.

Cooking for Community began as a way to provide several hundred hot meals after soup kitchens closed in the early days of the pandemic. That effort has grown from 450 to 2,200 meals weekly for nine different social service organizations, including the YMCA and Amistad. 

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Mama Mo's is run by a single mom who is making batches of soup. Ellen Linen Low, a community organizer started the non-profit.

She is able to crank out 140 quarts of soup a week or soft food, like shepherd's pie to serve the residents of Bath Housing, who are elderly or disabled.

The program has raised more than $200,000, which is being used to pay restaurants to make and deliver meals. 

Little Giant and Chaval were the first two restaurants to help launch the program. The program has allowed Ian Malin, the owner of Little Giant, to bring back seven employees to cook meals as well as curbside takeout and delivery. 

"Depending how many meals we produce per week to be able to generate some cash flow, to be able to pay for some things that PPE doesn't allow us to pay for under the rules," Malin said.

Malin is still working on a plan for when restaurants are allowed to do in-person dining, which may include outdoor seating. He says the funds are giving him the flexibility to ensure a safe environment for his customers when he opens again.

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Community for Cooking meanwhile has gone from crisis response to looking at expanding the program to the Brunswick Bath area, Lewiston, Auburn, and the Lakes region. 

"None of us imagined that the need would be extending for six to 12 months if not longer," Low said.

As the demand to help the less fortunate, restaurants, and the vendors that supply them, continues, so does the mission to help restore lives in the long run. 

For information on participating restaurants and social service organizations and how you can donate. 

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At NEWS CENTER Maine, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the illness. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: /coronavirus

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