As a cook, Gail Patak of Garden Truck Food Company is used to her orders changing. But recently, her orders, literally and figuratively, have changed drastically.
“All of our events and weddings canceled from now to probably about three or four months from now, so it’s hard and we have a surplus of food,” she said.
Canceled because of the coronavirus. Now, Patak is turning that surplus of food into meals to sell. She is one of several local vendors that is part of the newly formed group 904 Local Food Hub.
The group is made up of local nutrient-rich food producers. The vendors will either sell ingredients for the public to prepare or provide full meals, drive-thru style to keep with social distancing starting Thursday at 10 a.m. They’ll sell the food outside of Olive My Pickle’s facilities on St. Augustine Road in Jacksonville.
”I think in the entrepreneurial skillset, small business owners, anyone who is self-employed, we’re pretty much geared towards this on a personality level anyway,” Charlotte Tzabari, co-owner of vendor Olive My Pickle said. “All of that said, this is next level."
Charlotte, her husband Shai and Jessica Pounds of Conscious Containment are apart of a group dedicated to bringing the community together during this pandemic. They said their goal is to keep local businesses afloat while helping feed Jacksonville residents healthy meals.
“It’s truly a community, and it’s putting one foot in front of the other,” Shai said.
“We’ve been through some tough times,” Patak said, speaking about a hurricane a few years ago that ruined her business then. “Situations where you just have to kick it in [high gear] and just do what’s best for everyone."
Other local vendors talked about the food hub’s logistics and stocked up products Wednesday. They said they’re figuring out the details of everything. Some of those other vendors include Bee Friends Farm, Little Black Box Baked Goods and Mom’s Organic Elderberries. Charlotte said they’re looking for other vendors who want to partner with them as well. If a vendor is interested, he or she can reach out through the group's website.
“I think you’re going to look at a local community coming together, which is a positive thing,” John Silveira, senior market manager at Riverside Arts Market, said. “I think the key is community members, neighbors helping each other and coming together as a community regardless of your background and that’s what we’re all about."
Silveira said they had to cancel several markets, the main way several farmers and vendors, in general, get paid. He said 904 Local Food Hub will help them in an unpredictable time and helps provide access to farm-fresh healthy food for the community.
“It’s really easy to get caught up in the fear piece [of the coronavirus] and become reactive and panicky and if you just take a step back and take a look at the situation, we have so much more than we realize we do and if we come together and work together, we can solve a lot of these problems and build things in a new way,” Pounds said.
Choosing to break down barriers the community is facing, and come up with solutions instead.
“This is a new adventure for all of us and we go day by day, and instead of getting into the drama, I think we should stay positive and we are all into it together and we will overcome together,” Shai said.
The group is looking into helping feed those who may not have access to food right now or can’t afford it. They also are looking into doing home delivery.