Food is Love. It’s the name of a meal delivery project that started when pandemic restrictions set-in but not a new concept for Linda Di Lello Morton and chef Tamara Murphy, co-owners of “Earth to Plate” restaurant Terra Plata.
“The mantra that we’ve had since I met Tamara 20 plus years ago is we feed people and food is love,” Di Lello Morton said.
Di Lello Morton and Murphy started the Food is Love Project in March alongside Broadway Business Improvement Area director Egan Orion and community advocate Marina Gray. Their mission is to provide meals for food insecure families and in turn bring business to local restaurants.
“It really is this immense win-win for our local small businesses — our restaurants — and for families that need a little extra support when it comes to food,” Orion said.
The program currently feeds over 300 individuals from Seattle Public Schools families and around 100 people living in homeless encampments. Over 21,000 meals have been delivered so far, from restaurants including Din Tai Fung, Pagliacci Pizza and Rancho Bravo Tacos.
Over the past seven months, Orion says food delivery has shifted between providing families with around one to three weekly meals.
So far Food is Love has largely depended on fundraising and donations to compensate restaurants and cover expenses but, thanks to a $40,000 grant from United Way of King County, the project is set to continue as a biweekly delivery service through the end of the year.
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Terra Plata’s Melrose Ave space serves as a hub for packaging and distributing the meals for pickup. A number of volunteer drivers, including some school teachers, make trips across Capitol Hill, the Central District, and Madrona to deliver the meals while following COVID-19 safety precautions.
Rather than organizing pickup spots in these different neighborhoods, the meals are delivered directly to each household.
‘[For] some families, especially single moms, it can be challenging to get to a drop-off point to pick up food and so we bypass that,” Di Lello Morton said.
Di Lello Morton, Orion, and Gray connected with families in need with the help of SPS family support workers and have had drivers deliver school curriculum and non-perishable food bags to the families at times in addition to meals.
In June, CHS reported on a similar initiative by affordable housing developer Community Roots Housing, supporting tenants during the pandemic with complimentary meals and compensating local restaurants providing the food.
Food is Love has also partnered with volunteers at Build Lake City Together to feed families in Northgate and Lake City and has plans to extend farther south.
“I think [Food is Love] provided an important tether for so many in the community in the midst of such uncertainty to be able to be of service to others,” Gray said.
During Terra Plata’s spring COVID closure, Murphy and Di Lello Morton directed much of their attention to launching Food is Love while at the same time designing a takeout menu for the restaurant and preparing to reopen at limited capacity.
“I cannot imagine how I would have survived these last seven months in the pandemic if it wasn’t for the Food is Love Project,” Di Lello Morton said. “I think that it’s a bright silver lining, the shining star of how crazy 2020 has been.”
Food is Love is set to continue through 2020, but how long it lasts beyond the year and whether it can support more families depends on ongoing fundraising.
“There were food vulnerable families in need before the pandemic and I don’t think that that’s going to be dwindling anytime soon,” Di Lello Morton said. “So our hopes and goals are to continue it for some time.”
You can learn more at thefoodisloveproject.org.