Larimer Square in downtown Denver is empty. On a sunny day, the sidewalks would normally be filled with people going about their daily routine. While many businesses are closed, one is bustling with activity just beyond its doors; Rioja, a Mediterranean restaurant.
Rocky Mountain PBS: Colorado Voices
Colorado Restaurant Response
The Colorado Restaurant Response employs restaurant workers while providing meals to food insecure families, essential workers, and food industry workers.
“Being part of the CRR has enabled us to hire back 14 people”, says owner Jennifer Jasinski.
CRR stands for Colorado Restaurant Response. Adam Schlegel was one of the first people to hop on board when he got the call from friend and fellow restaurateur Gabe Cohen about six weeks ago. “He said, we’ve got this idea that we could actually hire people back into work and provide food to the insecure.” Schlegel went on to recruit 4 restaurant owners to help the cause. One of those calls was to Jasinski who says, “we jumped on board!”
Each of the 4 restaurants was able to hire back about 10 full-time employees as they produced around 500 meals per day to be donated. Schlegel adds, “just last week we actually added 2 additional restaurants…I believe the latest numbers now are we’ve been able to hire [back] between 60-70 people, now we’re putting out 3,000 meals every day.”
Rioja rotates their meals weekly, this week it’s vegetable curry. Next week, back to chicken enchiladas. According to Jasinski, “every day we make 525 meals and we package them and they get picked up around noon and taken out to the communities”. The meals go to food-insecure families, essential workers, and restaurant-industry workers in the area. Jasinski says, “it feels natural to me to cook for people who need food.”
The CRR runs on donations from foundations and individual donors, and through partnerships with other small businesses. So far they’ve raised enough money to keep the project going through May. “It’s the community coming out and seeing that this is a program that has an immediate impact and really jumping into it”, says Schlegel. Jasinski adds, “everybody came together, we got this thing happening in four days, funding to start it…it just shows resilience, it shows that you can beat us up but you can’t knock us down”.
If you are a food insecure family, or a restaurant interested in getting involved, more information can be found at Colorado Restaurant Response.