Small business support makes 'huge difference' to Bean's Cafe through donations

(KTUU)

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The need for meals to feed the homeless, needy children and other people in need served by Bean’s Cafe has not diminished, but with precautions taken to limit the spread of coronavirus, the amount of people helping the nonprofit make those meals has.

“The biggest challenge right now is that we’ve discontinued the use of our community volunteers," Lisa Sauder, Executive Director of Bean’s Cafe said. "So we typically have maybe 30 people a day that will come through the kitchen and help in a variety of ways, whether they’re helping to prep meals, serve meals, do those kinds of things.”

Yet where traditional volunteers are not able to stand in, local businesses are stepping up.

Altura Bistro operates a wholesale business that sells soups to various restaurants and cafes in Anchorage. Chef and owner Nate Bentley said that the restaurant decided to open that segment of its business to the public and then pledged to donate one bag of soup for every five bags purchased.

“Once the community caught on to that happening, people just started donating bags - businesses, individuals and whatnot,” Bentley said. “It’s been overwhelming. It’s just such a blessing to be part of the Anchorage community and to see everyone rallying during this financial crisis that we’re going through right now and dealing with COVID-19, to have the support from everyone has been insane.”

Last Friday the restaurant delivered 20 gallons of soup to Bean’s Cafe. Tuesday the restaurant delivered 93 gallons more.

“We’ve got 10 different flavors ranging from three bean beef chili to a couple of vegan options and a few different chicken options as well,” Bentley said.

The call-in order and donations not only keep Bentley’s kitchen staff busy working, it also takes a weight off the bare-bones kitchen staff at Bean’s Cafe and allows them to focus on other tasks needed to provide a meal.

“It makes a huge difference. Every little bit helps. And because we are a commercial kitchen we can’t take homemade prepared food items. We’ve had a lot of people reach out and offer that, but at the scale we’re working and the way we’re licensed, that’s not something we unfortunately can accept,” Sauder said. “We’re so grateful to Chef Nate and all the other restaurants that have pitched in and donated whether they donated food items — we’ve had many restaurants that have had to cease operations and they’re donating their inventory to us, to people helping provide meals to our staff. We’re literally staffed 24 hours a day down there (at the Sullivan and Ben Boeke Arenas) and we’re trying to keep our staff fed as well as the EMTs and security folks that are working with us.”

Bentley said that Altura Bistro will continue its pledge of donating soup to Bean’s Cafe as long as coronavirus closures are in place. You can place an order by calling the restaurant at 907-561-2373.

Sauder said Bean’s Cafe expects demand to increase and needs financial support to hire additional culinary staff.

Those interested in supporting Bean’s Cafe can donate at beanscafe.org or on its Facebook page.

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