On this Giving Tuesday, a Denver restaurant is continuing its mission to give back to seniors who live in subsidized housing or on a fixed income, as inflation and a lack of resources make it harder to make ends meet.
At Chef Zorbas in Denver's Congress Park neighborhood, assembly lines are near muscle memory for those in the kitchen at this point. Each week, staff members fill up dozens of takeout containers with diner-style meals, all of which will be delivered to senior living facilities at no cost.
"Today chef did a bowtie pasta with a full chicken breast and vegetables," said Karen LuKanic, owner of Zorba's. "He's done meatloaf, pot roast, sometimes we'll send out gyro sandwiches that are our specialty."
Started in June 2020, the restaurant's "buy a meal, give a meal" program was supposed to end with the COVID-19 pandemic, but LuKanic says the demand has only tripled since then.
"A lot of these places will rely on churches and soup kitchens and things to bring them their meals, and because of economics and supply chain issues, a lot of those sources have dried up so we're seeing a higher demand here," she said.
Among those needing meals are the residents at Olin Senior Housing, who often line up before meals from Chef Zorba's even arrive.
"It's the best food of anybody that brings us food in Denver," said Frank Stuart, a resident of the Capitol Hill complex.
Olin's service event coordinator, Barbara Brodt, said this year she's seen inflation intensify her residents' needs, and traditional support systems can't always alleviate it all.
"They've had their food bank card go down, they've had their food stamps go down, so having a good meal like this is over the top for them," Brodt said. "It's a real meal, and most of them will have half of it at lunch and they're going to have the other half at night."
At Zorba's, LuKanic plans to keep the meals coming, especially if donations continue. Every $10 donated covers a meal for a senior in need.
For now, her focus is the nearby neighborhood but says others can and should give back, too.
"I've talked to other restauranteurs who have wanted to do it and said, 'would you mind if we did a program?' Go ahead, do your five miles, because if we all worked together and filled in those gaps, I think we'd have less food insecurity," LuKanic said.
If you want to contribute to the program, you can make a donation at the restaurant or on its website.
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