Andrew Ross on Takeout

Andrew Ross has temporarily put down his critic’s pen, to write about the takeout food available during the corona virus pandemic.

For the duration of this public health crisis (and please don’t delude yourself into thinking it’s anything other than a crisis), I will not say anything critical about any restaurant or food business. To do so in such a brittle economic environment would feel mean-spirited and irresponsible.

Instead, I’ll share a few of my personal experiences exploring how to dine (and drink) in, while still engaging with our state’s remarkable food-and-beverage businesses.

Note: Since this article was written Drifters Wife has put their food service on hold.

Pivoting from Craft Spirits to Hand Sanitizer

Maine distilleries are making a change from producing craft spirits to hand sanitizer:

Feeding the Frontline

A growing number of local food businesses are signing on for Feeding the Frontline—a program that enlists the public to enable restaurants to provide free meals to healthcare providers, first responders and other groups impacted by and assisting with the current crisis.

Here’s a list of participating organizations:

    • Woodford F&B – got the ball rolling on FTF in Portland when they started delivering their delicious cheeseburger. Use their online form to contribute.
    • Batson River – will be delivering pizzas as part of their Feeding the Frontline program. They’re in the process of setting “Donate a Pie” option on their website.
    • Coffee by Design – has set-up up their Feeding the Frontline program through their Coffee By Design Cares initiative which will deliver brewed coffee and partnering with Bam Bam Bakery to offer gluten-free treats. Use their online order form to support their efforts.
    • LB Kitchen – “With your help, we’d like to offer as many lunches as we can per week to the courageous team at the Maine Medical Center Emergency Room and COVID Response Unit.” You can support their efforts online.
    • Luke’s Lobster – is delivering lobster roll kits. Call (207) 274-6097 to contribute.
    • Noble Pizza – “has partnered with Maine Medical Center in the coming weeks to provide square pies to their well deserved staff. If you would like to help #feedthefront you can buy a pizza ($10) on our online menu under the Feeding the Frontlines Menu Item.
      After three weeks of operating Noble Pizza we feel these square pies could be a perfect item to drop for the staff and hope you feel the same!”
    • Otto Pizza – is now participating. You can support their efforts by making a contribution online.
    • Rivalries – is donating a bowl of soup for every family dinner ordered.
    • Rosemont Market – is delivering meal boxes to healthcare works at Maine Medical Center. Fill out the Feed the Frontline section when placing your next order with Rosemont to contribute.
    • Solo Italiano – is delivering lasagne. Use their online order form to contribute.
    • Union – “Every takeout dinner purchased directly contributes to grab n’ go lunches for Maine Medical personnel that will be provided by UNION. If you order a meal from us, you are also giving a meal to a community member in the front line of this pandemic.”
    • Maine Flag Company – the Maine Flag Company is selling a Heart of it All and devoting profits to “help Portland restaurants feed healthcare workers on the front lines of the outbreak”.

For additional information on Feeding the Frontline in Maine, see this article from the Press Herald.

While not associated with Feeding the Frontline, some other businesses are doing what they can to help others. Here are a couple I have heard about recently:

Food Delivery Big & Small

The Bangor Daily News has a report on a small volunteer organization delivering food in Portland,

Later that day, the group delivered some 600 meals worth of rice and beans on the doorsteps of people they identified in some of the city’s most vulnerable neighborhoods, such as Parkside, East Bayside and the affordable housing complexes in Sagamore Village and Munjoy South.

and the Press Herald has a report on how LL Bean is helping the Good Shepherd Food bank deliver to food pantries.

The outdoors retailer is partnering with Maine’s largest food bank, Good Shepherd. The company’s workers will sort and package food in boxes that the Good Shepherd Food Bank will ship to food pantries in all 16 counties.

Maine Hospitality Workers Resource Guide

The lives of workers in the Maine restaurant industry have been especially hard hit by the Corona virus pandemic.

Caroline Richter, the bar manager at Leeward, has put together this helpful set of resources for her peers and has been good enough to allow me to share it here so it can reach more of the people who need it.

WORKER COMPENSATION ASSISTANCE

  • Maine UnemploymentApply here. F.A.Q. information is NOT up to date. Waiting periods have been waived, and you do not need to actively look for work if your reason for applying is covid-19.
  • Another Round Another Rally – Relief fund for all industry employees, providing $500 grants.
  • One Fair Wage – Emergency fund for all hospitality and gig economy workers. Currently fundraising to refill the fund but still accepting applications.
  • Restaurant Opportunities Centers United – Relief fund for all industry employees.
  • Restaurant Workers Community Foundation – National relief fund that is not up and running yet but will be soon. Email covidhelp@restaurantworkersscf.org to express interest and receive an application when they are live.
  • USBG National Charity Foundation – Apply for Bartender Emergency Assistance Program. You do not need to be a member of USBG to receive aid.
  • Golden Rule Charity – Grant fund for hospitality workers who have been in the industry for at least 6 months. Money is distributed to vendors instead of directly to applicant (i.e. to your landlord if you apply for help with rent).
  • James Beard Foundation – Emergency relief fund to begin accepting applications in the next few days. Visit JBF website to add your information and express interest in an application when they go live. For more information fill out this form.
  • Lift your Spirits – Grant for US industry employees who receive the majority of their income from hospitality jobs. First come first serve. Grant applications available on their site.
  • Personal Loans – Maine residents can apply for zero interest loans of up to $5,000 to be received three times (15,000 total). Lending institutions are working with Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) to employ this. This is a part of very recent legislature put in place to help make up gaps in unemployment benefits. More info on the FAME website

FOOD ASSISTANCE

  • Good Shepherd Food Bank – Extended hours for food pick up. Find locations for local food pantries and soup kitchens on their site.
  • SNAP Benefits (Food Stamps) – Apply here. Caps on yearly income and current checking + savings account balances apply. Check F.A.Q. to determine eligibility.

FOOD ASSISTANCE FOR KIDS

  • Jersey’s Subs and Sweets (BANGOR) – Free bagged lunches for students in need. No questions asked.
  • Boba (LEWISTON) – Free meals for kids Tuesday- Saturday until April 2nd .
  • South Portland Boys & Girls Club – Grab and go dinners from 4-5pm Monday through Friday, SoPo School Dept. will begin serving lunch there Tuesday 3/24 11 am – 1 pm.

UTILITIES & RENT ASSISTANCE

  • CMP – Cut-offs for residential non-payment suspended.
  • City of Portland Rent Assistance – As part of the CARES act Portland residents can  receive up to $1,000/ month for 3 months paid to the landlord.  $250/ month also available for utilities.  Must meet income cap and be current on rent to apply.  This program has pretty strict requirements, so be sure to check the link for full eligibility information.
  • MaineHousing Covid-19 Rent Assistance – Program available to all Maine residents.  $500 paid to the landlord for current or outstanding rent with the agreement that the landlord will not evict the tenant during the month they receive the payment.  Similar to the Portland program you must meet income cap and strict eligibility requirements.  More information and application available through the link.
  • Rent Abatement – Ask landlords for rent deferrals or reductions. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have announced that they will be implementing deferrals/ reductions for the next 12 months on mortgages they’ve insured. It’s expected that other banks will be following suit. If landlords aren’t signing onto this yet, tenants should keep asking.

HEALTH ASSISTANCE

  • MaineCare – Furloughed employees without health insurance in Maine are eligible to apply for health benefits via MaineCare.
  • NAMI of Maine – 24/7 helpline.Text NAMI to 741741 or call the NAMI helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264).
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) – 24/7 disaster distress helpline. Text TalkWithUs to 66746 or call 1-800-985-5990 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence (MCEDV) – For safety planning and domestic violence help call statewide helpline at 1-866-834-HELP. Hearing impaired line 1-800-437-1220. Find local organizations by county and tribal community here on their website.
  • Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine (SARSSM) + Sexual Assault Response Services of Midcoast Maine (SARSMM) 24/7 helpline. Call 1-800-871-7741 – Southern Maine site, Midcoast site
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline – Free, confidential national hotline and online chat for domestic abuse survivors available 24/7. Call them at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), there are Spanish speaking lines available.  Check out their guide for what domestic abuse might look like during the pandemic.

FITNESS AND WELLNESS ONLINE SERVICES

Cashiers on the Frontline

The Press Herald has published an article about how the working lives of cashiers and markets and groceries have changed.

Operations at the Rosemont Market & Bakery in Portland’s West End changed quickly last week. On Tuesday there was a limit of five customers inside the store at a time. By Wednesday only curbside pickup was allowed, with employees filling orders taken over the phone or online and handing off the groceries outside the shop.

Solo Cucina Market to Open Wednesday

Solo Cucina Market (websitefacebookinstagram) is planning to go ahead and open this Wednesday. Their hours will be 11 am to 4 pm.

The market is a collaboration between the owners of The Farm Stand in South Portland and Solo Italiano. The market will feature a bakery and Solo Cucina will sell fresh pasta and sauces prepared foods to go in addition to the meats, dairy, wine, beer and produce that The Farm Stand has become known for.

At this time of restaurant closings it’s so encouraging to see a new business taking the leap and opening for the first time.

Feeding the Frontline (Updated)

Woodford F&B is participating in the Feeding the Frontline project.

We’re fielding mounting questions from near & far about how best for people to help. We think #FeedingtheFrontline is a good answer. Starting tomorrow, we’ll be making daily deliveries of our delicious cheese burger to local folks on the front line of this situation. We plan to do this in increments of 5 burgers, and we’ll do as many as we can. The initial list of recipients we’re targeting includes local hospitals & nearby assisted living facilities, but we’ll work to grow the list quickly & welcome recommendations.

To support their effort call them to purchase any increments of 5 burgers to be delivered to a local organization. (207) 200-8503.

Solo Italiano has joined Woodford in this initiative. Every $100 purchase will provide 5 lasagne to those assisting the elderly, sick and needy with weekly deliveries on Thursdays. Solo will be directing proceeds will go to “the staff we are retaining as well as to an in-house relief fund to the rest of our staff that has been laid off.”

Luke’s has joined in too. They’re “donating 50 lobster rolls in our DIY Lobster Roll Kits to the incredible workers on the front lines in Maine, donating to a different hospital each day.”