Feeding A Need

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By Dave Eckert
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As many restaurants in the Kansas City metro re-open under new guidelines, others remain closed, while still others have pivoted to provide other essential services and jobs. One such pivot can be found at The Classic Cup on the Country Club Plaza. This longtime Kansas City favorite, which had already changed its business model prior to Covid-19 by ending its dinner service, is currently not open to the public. That’s not to say that “The Cup” isn’t cooking. It’s actually cooking up a storm, delivering up to 2,500 meals a day for Operation BBQ Relief. Owner Dan McCall explained. “Stan Hays, the president of Operation BBQ Relief, and I have been talking about working together for years. Three restaurants were selected to provide meals for people in need over a six-week period: Ploughboys, Wilma’s Good Food Truck, and now, The Classic Cup,” McCall shared.

McCall says his restaurant was chosen because of its central location and available space. “Professionally, there was no big incentive, but we have the ability and the space and being able to use it to support the city. I felt I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t do this,” McCall added. McCall says he and his staff will churn out close to 40,000 meals by this Friday when their two-week period ends. The meals are delivered to The City Union Mission, area fire stations, and local hospitals, among other entities. McCall says he is shocked by the need.  “I’m shocked. I mean, I think we’re doing a good job covering the city and getting people the meals they need, but every day we get more calls. Calls for 50 or 100 meals. I’ve realized that no matter how much we provide, it’s never going to be enough,” McCall said. “I knew about organizations like City Union Mission and The Boys and Girls Club, but to see it first-hand, it’s staggering. It’s especially haunting to know that so many children are going hungry. I’ve got three kids, so that hits close to home.”

I also spoke with Brett Atkinson, owner of Wilma’s Good Food, about his participation in the program. Atkinson, like McCall, says it was just the right thing to do. “I’ve always said that food is a currency with no exchange rate. If you’re hungry, please let me feed you. If I’m hungry, please feed me,” Atkinson stated. “It’s humanity 101. There aren’t a lot of things more gratifying that putting a hot meal in the hands of someone who really needs it.” Atkinson says Operation BBQ Relief is the perfect outlet to make that happen. He says he’s done two deployments over 24 days since the Covid-19 outbreak, delivering some 50,000 meals. “This most recent deployment was quite possibly the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Short staff, grueling hours, limited equipment, etc. Then throw in an enemy that you can’t see, hear, or feel, you’re in for a rough ride,” Atkinson reflected.

Atkinson says the rewards are slim. “My crew and I were locked away like lab rats, staying as isolated as possible, and avoiding outside contact at all times. There were no hugs or handshakes, no applause or accolades, just tons of hot food appearing out of a small kitchen in the West Bottoms,” Atkinson noted. Yet, asked if he would do it again and the answer is a resounding yes! “We never really get to see the final results of all of our efforts, but if just one of those 50,000 meals we created made a difference in someone’s life, then it was all worth it.”

As mentioned, the six-week program ends this week. McCall says he wouldn’t be surprised if it were extended. “After our two weeks is up, they’ll re-evaluate the need in the city and go from there. The program was based on need and product, but in the end, it will be supply and demand in one shape or another. There will never not be people in need, so it will be a hard decision not to continue,” McCall offered.

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