‘Cook it Forward’ this Thanksgiving

One local campaign aims to donate 2,500 meals to high insecurity areas
Merchant's bodega boz
Photo courtesy of Merchant/Lucille

One local campaign is making sure Madisonians don’t go without Thanksgiving dinner. 

“Cook It Forward” was started this past June by restaurant owners, Francesca Hong of Morris Ramen, and Patrick Sweeney and Joshua Berkson of the Rule No. 1 Hospitality Group, which owns Lucille and Merchant.

The campaign uses donated money to cook, package and deliver healthy meals from Madison restaurants to areas with the highest level of food insecurity and communities of color that are disproportionately affected by the current pandemic, according to a release. 

“Cook It Forward” is aiming to donate 2,500 meals this Thanksgiving.

“Thanksgiving is an important time to focus on those who want and need a comforting meal,” Hong says. “We are really mobilizing.”

The campaign has raised roughly $64,000 through its website and restaurant partners and an additional $200,000 through organizations like American Family Insurance, Zendesk, Exact Sciences, Tito’s Vodka, The Taste of Madison Gives Back and Frank Productions. 

The campaign uses donated money to pay restaurants $10 per meal so restaurants can pay workers, rent and suppliers. The campaign also gives money for local drop-off sites and distribution partners.

“The word ‘restaurant’ derives from the French verb restaurer, meaning ‘to restore.’ We love this idea of food as medicine and using restaurants as community agents to uplift and bring communities together,” Berkson says. “Our method of aggregating meals across multiple restaurants, caterers, and community kitchens in partnership with local nonprofits increases our reach and allows us to scale bringing more chefs and restaurants into action. We are actively raising dollars to this end.”

More information on the campaign and ways to donate can be found on its website, cookitforwardmadison.com.

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