Special Video Series Agents of Change

How one restaurateur is feeding the hungry and helping restaurants stay open during the pandemic

For many children in the U.S., lunches at school are the most important meal of the day. For some, they are the only meal of the day; 22 million children rely on free or reduced-price lunches served by the schools they attend.

But as the coronavirus spread through the nation and schools shut down or went remote, it became apparent that children were going hungry. Food banks across the country are falling short of feeding all the kids and adults in need.

At the same time, more than 100,000 businesses have closed forever because of the pandemic. The restaurant industry was among the hardest hit. 

Mark Bucher, co-founder of the acclaimed DC area steakhouse chain Medium Rare, has come up with a solution to feed a hungry nation and help his fellow restaurateurs keep their doors open.

He calls the program “Feed the Fridge” and has partnered with the DC Department of Parks and Recreation to install eight refrigerators in recreation centers across the DC area.

The refrigerators are filled daily with healthy, restaurant quality meals, prepared by Medium Rare and eight other participating restaurants in the DC area. There is a “No Questions Asked” policy where anyone at any age can come to the refrigerators to get food for them and their families without registration or hassle. “Their currency is the smile on their face,” says Bucher. “Grab as many meals as you need, enjoy yourselves, stay healthy, come back tomorrow and we’ll have more.”

The current model is funded by community donations, which go directly to the preparation and distribution of food, but Bucher hopes that his program will inspire restaurateurs across the country who are interested in helping their communities. He also hopes that his program will gain the attention of the government, so that they can help the program spread and grow even after the pandemic is over.

It’s a win-win program. With the donations coming in, struggling restaurants are able to stay open and the hungry are being fed nutrioutious meals in a dignified way. So far, the participating restaurants in the DC area include Medium Rare, Cava Mezze, Olazzo, Alatri Bros, Duke’s Grocery, Chaia Tacos, Pie Shop DC, Little Sesame, and Call Your Mother Deli. You can find out more at www.feedthefridge.org.

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