In mid-April, DSAL received $250,000 from the Stupski Foundation to launch an Emergency Food Production Grant program to support local food businesses while also providing healthy meals for food-insecure families and residents who are most vulnerable to COVID-19. The grant program awards $15,000 to food businesses to prepare up to 1,000 meals for distribution to home-bound seniors, medically vulnerable patients, and families experiencing food insecurity as a result of the pandemic.
The Emergency Food Production initiative is part of a deep and ongoing partnership with ALL IN Alameda County, which is part of Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan’s New War on Poverty to ensure all individuals and families in Alameda County are able to meet their basic needs for shelter, health care, food, and safety; obtain a quality education; and earn an income that allows for self-sufficiency and asset building.
One of the first Emergency Food Production Grants went to Aurora Catering, an East Bay company led by Dawn and Martin Deardorf, a husband-and-wife team with 12 years of experience in catering and event planning. Aurora was founded in 2008 when Marty was laid off from his job in the insurance industry.
Chef Marty and Dawn had always wanted to start a food business. When Marty was laid off, they decided to take the plunge, and Aurora was born. After five years, Dawn was able to quit her day job and join the catering business full time.
But then COVID changed everything.
“When all this all started happening, we had already been getting emails from people saying they were going to cancel their events,” said Dawn. “We had 30 events cancel between early March and late April, and then people started postponing weddings and other events scheduled for May and June. We went into paralysis.”
After a few days, however, they decided to start a pickup and delivery service. They created menus, and they promoted the delivery service on their website and social media channels and via a Facebook page dedicated to supporting restaurants in the Eden area.
Chef Marty and Dawn also felt it was important to do something for senior citizens and healthcare workers in the community. They launched a campaign to raise enough money to make 500 meals, and they soon raised enough money to make 550 meals.
Next, they had to figure out how to deliver the meals, and that’s when they were referred to DSAL and Dig Deep Farms. Dig Deep Farms started picking up the meals twice a week and delivering them on behalf of Aurora to community members in need.
When DSAL announced the Emergency Food Preparedness Grant program, Aurora applied and was selected as one of the vendors. The grant brought more stability to the business and allowed them to bring some of their kitchen staff back to work.
“The grant really helps,” said Dawn. “Knowing the income is there, that we’re doing something good for the community, and that we can bring back some of our staff—it’s a win-win-win all the way across the board.”
“It was amazing how quickly we shifted,” said Dawn. “COVID has heavily impacted the catering industry and the event industry, but we landed on our feet in a really lucky way. I’m proud of us because we changed things around and we had the support of the community to do it, and it’s been great in that way.”
“Dig Deep Farms Food Hub is a game-changer. The Food Hub is not only essential to alleviating hunger and helping food insecure families access healthy food during the COVID-19 pandemic, it has quickly become the epicenter of a local food economy—creating jobs, providing fresh produce for the County’s Food as Medicine initiative, supporting local food businesses, and improving public safety and quality of life for everyone.”
— Captain Martin Neideffer, Alameda County Sheriff’s Office