Nearly 100 needy seniors are receiving delicious restaurant meals once a week, thanks to a new collaboration between the Pasadena Senior Center, Altaeats restaurant, and Harvest Village Ministries. Seniors are having tremendous difficulty getting enough food since the coronavirus hit. “We found people who hadn’t eaten in four days,” Pasadena Senior Center Executive Director Akila Gibbs explained.
The partnership began with the Center’s broken refrigerator. Looking to see if a local restaurant could help, the Center reached out to a local favorite, Altaeats on Allen Avenue in Altadena. Owner Paul Ragan didn’t have an extra fridge, but he had been looking for a way to provide food to people who were struggling to get enough to eat. Ragan was ready to make the meals at his restaurant but needed someone to identify those who needed it the most, and to deliver what his chefs prepared.
The Pasadena Senior Center was ready to do both. Staff could pinpoint the neediest seniors on the emergency food list, and, thanks to Harvest Village Ministries, a small church that usually focuses on violence prevention by holding workshops in local high schools, it already had a distribution network. Myhisha Myles, the church’s director of operations reached out to the Pasadena Senior Center offering to help as a food delivery service.
At first, Ragan committed to providing 40 meals every Thursday for the Center to distribute. The next week he doubled that to 80 meals, and the following week he upped it to 90. He’s also providing meals for health care workers and first responders. When he heard the staff at a local convalescent home was locked down due to the virus outbreak, he provided 50 meals for them, too.
Ragan is picking up the tab for the food himself, although a few of his regular guests have given him donations. “I realized that people are hungry, people are out of work, they don’t have any money. The basis of what I do is I prepare food for people.” Ragan explains. “What I do is feed people. I have to figure out how to do that, otherwise I’m useless,” he adds.
Gibbs says seniors love the meals they get. “They call and say how delicious it is, and how thankful they are. It’s a really big hit.” She says the Center buys large supplies of food to give to the 200 seniors on the Center’s emergency food list, and the restaurant meals help stretch their food budget. Still, she says she’s nervous the Center could run out of money. “We’re a non-profit so we need to keep raising money so that we can continue to feed them.”