An Omaha group that has been feeding low-income Omahans with a community garden recently seized an opportunity to feed even more.
Nebraska Left Coalition partnered with local chefs and others to prevent produce from going to waste as restaurants started closing temporarily in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Members of the 3½-year-old group delivered between 75 and 100 bags of food to people who have lost jobs or are struggling in other ways.
Many of the people in the coalition are in the service industry, which has been hit hard by efforts to control the spread of COVID-19.
“We are regular working people doing our best to help other working people,” said Brett Anderson, a spokesman for the group.
Nebraska Left Coalition just approved a plan to build a greenhouse and purchase additional seeds to help more people over the summer.
Omahan Cheri Peters was in bed with a stomach bug when a bag of restaurant food was delivered to her house. At age 58, she’s a full-time art student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She recently was laid off from her federal work-study job as an America Reads tutor for kids in kindergarten through eighth grade and has been digging into savings to stay afloat.
The box was overflowing with staples such as onions, lettuce, potatoes and carrots, a huge package of tortillas and fresh ingredients she rarely buys, such as dill, cilantro and fennel.
“They’re a little too pricey for me to (have) normally,” she said of the fresh herbs.
Anderson expected to do a few more food bags with the restaurants as they close down. The coalition soon will turn its attention to the garden, where members grow a wide variety of healthy vegetables. They preserve a fair amount of their bounty — pickled, jarred and frozen — for a year-round pantry. They also collect dues and raise money to supplement the veggies with store-bought groceries, if necessary.
The coalition also works with Tenants United to protect vulnerable people from eviction, something Anderson expects will ramp up in the days ahead.
Its work impressed and touched Peters, who had been hoping nothing would be thrown out when restaurants had to suddenly shut down.
“These people are all volunteers. They’re using their own gas,” she said. “I just think that’s pretty fabulous.”
Sinful Burger owners give back to community
The owners of Sinful Burger have reached out to help the residents of Bellevue.
Jim and Debbie Nearing, who operate the restaurant on Twin Creek Drive, gave free meals to kids last Wednesday in an effort to help struggling families and children who no longer are getting school lunches, reader Jenny Moraga said in an email to The World-Herald.
A Sinful Burger employee said about 70 kids were fed at no cost. They also gave local firefighters free food on Saturday and delivered free meals to nurses at the Bellevue Medical Center on Monday.
“These are amazing people with huge hearts,” Moraga said.
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