Just over a year ago, Patrick Mulvaney, chef and owner of Midtown Sacramento’s B&L (Building and Loan) restaurant, was busy focusing his efforts on mental health issues effecting the restaurant industry after losing a long-time friend and fellow chef to suicide.
Mulvaney is a steadfast champion of the “restaurant staff is family” ethos and didn’t hesitate to show it when the coronavirus pandemic began disrupting the industry earlier this year. And since people still need to eat and chefs still need to cook, one solution happening in the B & L kitchen now is the Family Meals for Four program. Mulvaney and his crew, while working with all social distancing protocols in place, are creating meals for low income seniors, students and families in need.
Not only does the Family Meals program keep the hungry fed, it also keeps a number of his kitchen staffers employed and gives local farmers a place to sell their produce at a time when most are suffering badly from lost revenue. Currently, thanks to philanthropic donations and support from the Sacramento City Attorney’s Justice for Neighbors program, Mulvaney’s team from B&L is putting together 100 bags of food each day that feed four people each. A handful of Sacramento’s finest restaurants have joined the Family Meals effort, and collectively, the group is providing 800 bags of food daily.
Even with the challenges facing Mulvaney as he navigates these uncharted, turbulent times, his enthusiasm for finding ways of doing even more hasn’t waned one bit, “Our mandate is to continue making sure our communities are strong, so even while we’re physically distanced, we need to remain connected as a community.”
That said, Mulvaney was doubtful at first that philanthropy would be part of the solution. He just wasn’t sure that people would be able to make donations during such difficult times. Now, however, he’s a believer. In fact, it was philanthropy that funded the first 50,000 meals.
“Now the government needs to be here,” says Mulvaney. And, at the time of this interview, they were, indeed, starting to be there. FEMA was offering funding to help feed the elderly and governor Gavin Newsom paid a visit to B&L just a week ago asking how the State of California could help and an RFP from the USDA was expected late last week as well.
It’s not long before Mulvaney brings our conversation full circle when he adds: “Niman Ranch’s generosity has been awesome too. By coming in and donating products to this program, we are able to feed so many deserving people and we appreciate that so much.”
In a time when it would be easy to give up or to feel discouraged, Mulvaney refuses to go that route: “Every day I wake up with hope. Hope that we’re going to get through this. Hope that all will be OK soon. Hope that restaurants will come back.” We hope so too.