Scratching Out Hunger

Carrie Stambaugh, Managing Editor

Cheddar's in Ashland Launches Donation Program to Benefit Hillcrest-Bruce Mission

    Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen has decided to do something about the massive amount of food wasted every year in the U.S., which is occurring while one in eight Americans struggles to get enough to eat. Earlier this year, Ashland Cheddar’s joined forces with the Hillcrest-Bruce Mission, which serves community members through a variety of programs, including its food pantry.
    “Hunger is a community issue, and at Cheddar’s, we’re in a strong position to make an impact in our local community,” said David (Eric) Miller, managing partner of the Ashland Cheddar’s. “Our scratch cooking philosophy means that we always have fresh ingredients on-hand and can donate excess, when available. Our team takes tremendous pride in helping our neighbors in need through our partnership with Hillcrest-Bruce Mission.
    “Too many times restaurants or businesses in general don’t have the close connection or relationship we should have with the community. This builds relationships and fills a very important need for people who may not be able to go out or have food for the day,” said Miller.
    The program works like this: Twice each week – Monday and Friday – surplus food goes directly from Cheddar’s kitchen to Hillcrest-Bruce  Mission, which then serves and distributes the food to its clients.  Each week the mission receives a combination of fresh ingredients, such as vegetables and proteins, along with dishes such as soups, sauces, casseroles and pasta. Miller said the restaurant’s homemade mashed potatoes, broccoli casserole, macaroni and cheese, along with its potato and tortilla soups, are among the most frequently donated items.
    He explained the restaurant tends to overproduce its most popular dishes. “We can’t use it again but it is still wholesome food.” When this happens Cheddar’s employees Kathy Delgado and Misty Wisenberger jump into action. “They are on top of it all the time. They monitor the product very closely and are always reporting back to me,” he said.  
    “We’re thankful to have Cheddar’s as a partner in hunger relief,” said Mike Maynard, executive director at Hillcrest-Bruce Mission. It provides a prepared meal supplement to the items clients receive from the pantry. They typically get three to four days worth of food that includes milk, eggs, and meat, along with canned and boxed items. “What this enables us to do is to give people an option to get something extra that they wouldn’t otherwise get,” explained Miller. “It has also cut our costs down so we can help more people.”
    Maynard explained a youth group meeting begins with a meal, so if Cheddar’s has donated taco meat and queso that week, then the mission only has to purchase some tortillas. Later in the week, when a program for families affected by addiction gathers and begins with a meal served family-style, often Cheddar’s foods are served as sides, leaving the mission to purchase and prepare the main dish only. “It gets expensive to find the meals, and it is time-consuming to get volunteers to cook them,” Maynard said.
    Cheddar’s foods are just a slice of what the mission receives and serves each month to more than 200 local families. The mission’s pantry gets most of its food through River Cities Harvest, which distributes foods it receives from a variety of sources, including the Facing Hunger Food Bank; the Federal Correctional Institute, Ashland’s prison garden ministry; Kroger; and Wal-Mart. Tudor’s Biscuit World donates biscuits each week and Little Caesars Pizza is a staple too.  
    Created in 1971, the mission provides morning/afternoon preschool, ged classes, college prep classes, tutoring, financial literacy classes and homemakers, addiction support group, nutrition classes, cooking classes, breast-feeding support, summer lunch program, smoking cessation classes and the good samaritan grant that helps with diabetic supplies, eye glasses, hearing aids and dental work and dentures, food pantry, clothing closet, cleaning supplies, hygiene needs, underwear and diapers. It also sponsors ladies bible studies, men’s group, youth group and summer camps.