Local kids pick up free meals from North Fulton restaurants through the School Meal Program started by Mike and Cristy Thomas. COURTESY OF THE SCHOOL MEAL PROGRAM
Photo: Arcane Visuals/Arcane Visuals
Photo: Arcane Visuals/Arcane Visuals

Extra Helping: Roswell couple’s program provides meals to local kids and more good food news

A local couple has raised nearly $50,000 and will provide 10,000 meals to students of North Fulton schools by May 22, the originally scheduled end date of the county’s school year.

After closing their Wild Slice pizzeria in February, Mike and Cristy Thomas of Roswell deeply understood the needs of local restaurants as the coronavirus pandemic began shutting down dining rooms around the metro Atlanta area. Through Cristy’s work as a kindergarten special needs teacher at Esther Jackson Elementary School, they also understood how school closings would impact food security among the area’s children. In March, they created the School Meal Program to stimulate cash flow in local restaurants and provide varied, nutritious meals to local kids. 

The program works by allowing donors to purchase gift cards from area restaurants that pay for the meals for students. Gift card purchases provide cash flow to the restaurants that they are able to use for labor and ingredients for donated meals, which are then distributed by the Fulton County school system. 

At the beginning of April, the organization had raised about $15,000 and provided around 10,000 meals to students. Now, with 16 restaurants signed up for the program and thousands more meals served to kids in need, the Thomases have announced that the School Meal Program will continue indefinitely. 

“I was amazed by the outpouring of generosity and although it was our plan originally to finish the end of May, when school was to let out,” Mike said. “But because of the requests by restaurants and families, we are very proud to announce the program will continue.”

In order to generate the momentum needed to continue the program into the summer, the School Meal Program is launching an end-of-year blitz week. Starting May 14, all gift cards purchases will be matched by the restaurants in order to provide twice as many meals to students. The promotion will run through May 22. To learn more about the program and to donate, visit schoolmealprogram.org

More good food news:

Boxcar, the West End restaurant connected to Hop City Craft Beer and Wine, partnered last week with local group the ATL Seamsters to enhance the restaurant’s safety protocols and donate food to healthcare workers. The ATL Seamsters are local artisans that make cloth masks to assist community workers and stimulate the local economy. They donated handmade, 100% cotton masks to the staff at Boxcar and in exchange, the restaurant donated 50 meals to frontline workers at Grady Memorial Hospital and Emory University Hospital. Learn more about ATL Seamsters through their Facebook group.

•A group of metro Atlantans is helping local restaurants through a Socially Distanced Supper Club. Through a Facebook group with more than 1,500 restaurants, the group will connect with a restaurant expecting a slow night and direct members to all order food for pickup on the same predetermined date. The restaurant will create a special fixed-price menu that group members can order and pay for by phone, then the group is able to pick up and enjoy the same meal, together yet still safely separated, with plenty of lively discussion through the Facebook group. Martin Inman, a local real estate professional who started the Atlanta group, describes it as “flash mobbing local small restaurants.” The group has been active for more than two weeks and Inman says it’s been a “great success” so far. Learn more on the group’s Facebook page.

•A group of Atlanta-based writers and artists have created a zine called Eating Our Feelings, a one-off magazine about food and drink during the coronavirus pandemic. All proceeds will be donated to the Giving Kitchen with the intention of helping food service workers struggling due to the effects of COVID-19. “The end result is going to be gorgeous, well-done, and hilarious in parts,” said Austin Ray, a local writer and one of the zine’s creators, along with Lizzy Johnston and Linda McNeil. “It'll include everything from recipes to haiku to moving stories from farmers and even a piece about banana pudding and John Prine.” Eating Our Feelings will be released on June 5; it’s available for pre-order now at eatingourfeelings.bigcartel.com.

•The Georgia Restaurant Association has partnered with Clarkston-based sustainable food packaging company Better Earth to provide compostable food packaging at a subsidized rate to metro Atlanta restaurants. The subsidized products will include packaging related to takeout and delivery. “Nobody should have to choose between keeping the lights on or saving our planet,” said Savannah Miller, vice president of impact for Better Earth. “We want to alleviate this burden by providing restaurants critical packaging relief in a much more sustainable way.” Learn more about Better Earth at becompostable.com.

•Mission + Market has concluded its free meal program after seven weeks, feeding more than 1,100 unemployed Atlantans. “Our goal was to give back to the community for as long as we were able,” said executive chef Ian Winslade. “We’re grateful to have been a part of this humbling experience, and now we are shifting our focus to get ready to re-open, in the coming weeks, in compliance with COVID-19 guidelines. Thank you to all the businesses and individuals who contributed to this – we couldn’t have done it without your support.” Order from Mission + Market online at missionandmarketatl.com.

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