Mississauga restaurant partnering with volunteers to deliver meals to food banks
While the province—and country—is slowly reopening, many businesses will have to remain closed (or operate under very different rules) indefinitely to help slow the spread of COVID-19. One industry that's been nearly crippled by the pandemic is the hospitality sector, as restaurants have been forced to close or transition to takeout and delivery operations exclusively.
While the next few weeks (or possibly months) will be difficult for those in the hospitality industry, one group of volunteers is looking to help restaurants stay afloat and ensure good, high-quality food reaches those who need it most.
Anu Dogra, a tax adviser who has lived in Mississauga for 20 years, recently joined forces with a group of volunteers to help Mondello Ristorante, a Streetsville-area hotspot, deliver meals to the Mississauga Food Bank.
The deliveries will kick off this week.
"We don't want anyone left behind, and we don't want restaurants to struggle so much," says Dogra.
A few weeks ago, Dogra and three other local businessmen—Dheeraj Sindhwani, Anuraj (Anu) Gakhal and Dhanbir Jaswal—offered to help the restaurant on different nights so the chef can cook up meals to be delivered to the food bank. The initiative won't just help a local restaurant generate revenue at a time when restaurants cannot function at full capacity—it will also help local residents in need access good meals.
Dogra and the other volunteers are funding the initiative.
"This allows the restaurant to generate revenues for a night and also provides food to individuals," he says.
Bence Csuka, the general manager of Mondello, says the restaurant was happy to participate in the project.
"We were approached by Anu Dogra, a regular guest and friend, with the idea. We felt honoured to be thought of and were eager to contribute," he says, adding that the Mississauga Food Bank was happy with the idea and grateful.
"They do great work for our community and we are sure they appreciate being supported."
Csuka says Mondello will be providing easy to reheat meals for families of four to six people. The dishes will be fully cooked and can be warmed in the oven.
"Our first run will be chicken parmigiana on a bed of penne tomato," he says.
The meals should reach dozens of families.
"We hope to create as many meals as possible with the generous donations we are working with. We estimate 75 to 100 family dinners will be provided."
Dhanbir Jaswal, the owner of the Mississauga-based Jaswal Law and one of the volunteers helping the restaurant provide meals for the food bank, says he got involved after learning about the initiative in April.
"I learned about the initiative in early April when Anu and I discussed assisting the less fortunate during this pandemic, and it made perfect sense to look into assisting those who are in precarious situations dealing with food and shelter issues—especially during this time," Jaswal said in an email to insauga.com.
"Anu and I discussed how we could help those with food and shelter issues, and the Food Bank naturally stuck out for us."
Anu Gakhal, a Brampton resident and agent with the Mississauga-based Mortgage Architect, says he also felt the need to help those in need.
"A group of us felt the need to contribute to those who could use assistance during these unprecedented times. Even when things are on the up and up, people still experience hardships and need assistance," he said in an email to insauga.com.
"Now that we’re in these uncertain times with people losing their jobs, food banks are counted on even more by those in the community."
Gakhal is right that the food bank has never been more important—or more needed. In March, Mayor Bonnie Crombie and Mohamad Fakih, CEO of Paramount Fine Foods, launched the #MississaugaChallenge in a bid to raise $840,000 to support the urgent needs of The Mississauga Food Bank.
While that goal has been met thanks to generous donations by companies and individuals (including such local celebrities as Raptors Superfan Nav Bhatia and NBA player RJ Barrett), the Mississauga Food Bank is hoping to raise a total of $1.165 million to support those struggling with food insecurity.
Jaswal said supporting the food bank made sense not only because it serves those in need, but because it connects the community.
"Times like this bring humanity together to help each other get through difficult times. Involving the food bank was a natural choice as such assistance also provides a human connection to people who are often isolated. With closures across the board, more people need assistance with basic necessities, and helping with the Food Bank assists those in need," he says.
Csuka says that while the restaurant has been managing throughout the pandemic, staff members are excited for life to finally get back to normal—especially since the restaurant isn't offering takeout and delivery at this time.
"We are managing. The Mondello family is tight and strong. Our focus has always been the in-house dining experience, so we are not offering take out or delivery at this time. The impact has been strongest on our staff, who are eager to get back to doing what they love. We look forward to safer days ahead where we can open our doors. We love what we do and we miss our guests."
Csuka says the meals will begin reaching the food bank in the coming days.
To donate to the Mississauga Food Bank, click here.
Cover photo courtesy of Mondello Ristorante’s Facebook page
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