LAINGSBURG — Inspired by a pass-it-forward meal program in another state, a group of Laingsburg residents have formed Money 4 Meals — a similar program that enables community members in need to enjoy meals at local restaurants.
The strictly grassroots Money 4 Meals started last week, with the Laingsburg Subway, Laingsburg Dairy Den, Ayven Grace, Tammy’s Baker and Cafe, PDP’s Pizzeria and Firefly Ridge Farms joining the effort.
Anyone in need can stop by one of the participating restaurants and ask for a free meal, beverage or snack with no questions asked, except for a first name and last-name initial.
“We’re so excited and proud to have this up and running, and proud of the businesses that have stepped forward to help those in our community who would like to enjoy a restaurant meal, an ice cream cone or fresh vegetables once in awhile,” said the Rev. Tiffany Newsom at Laingsburg United Methodist Church, which is serving as the program fiduciary.
At the same time, local eateries will see increased revenues because they will be compensated for the meals.
The cost of the restaurant food is being covered by community donations, including $1,000 from an anonymous local donor. Anyone can contribute to the cause by dropping cash into the donation boxes set up at the eateries and church, or by asking for a couple extra dollars earmarked for Money 4 Meals to be added to their restaurant tabs.
The idea is to boost local eateries and help out those who are feeling food insecure at the same time. Recipients not only get free food, but a fresh-cooked meal served with a smile.
“Instead of going to the food bank and getting the food they provide, Money 4 Meals gives people a change of pace,” program organizer Carrie Rathbun Hawks said. “They can go into Tammy’s Bakery and have breakfast, or go into PDP’s and get a pizza. It’s something they might not otherwise be able to do.”
While COVID-19 has hurt the local economy, the village has historically had a significant number of low-income residents.
“We know that, traditionally, Laingsburg has struggled with having one of the highest poverty rates in the county,” Rathbun Hawks said. “The Laingsburg Area Food Bank gives away thousands of meals a year to Laingsburg residents.”
Community members have always rallied around residents who are hurting, and Money 4 Meals fits with their ongoing generosity, she said.
Money 4 Meals organizer Deb McKenzie told a group of friends about a meal giveaway program in Texas she’d read about on Facebook. She said she’s amazed by how that story has grown into a full-fledged effort in her own hometown.
“It warms my heart that the community of Laingsburg can grab onto this concept and help business and help people,” McKenzie said. “It’s just really exciting.”
Organizers said they will work with the Laingsburg-Area Food Bank, local churches, Laingsburg schools and other organizations to get the word out.
For more information, call Laingsburg United Methodist Church from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday at (517) 651-5531.