Michael Shemtov and a team of volunteers from Butcher & Bee set up the “Pay It Forward” campaign weeks ago as a way to supply displaced food industry employees with gift bags featuring essentials like eggs, milk, bread, and fresh produce. After receiving over 1,000 requests for these provision bags in the first week, Shemtov enlisted the help of Charleston Grill general manager and Feed the Need director Mickey Bakst.

Shemtov was in constant contact with Bakst about how to fold their initial initiative into something bigger. After realizing the scale, the two decided that Feed the Need should step in to take over the fundraising efforts.

The new expanded program will utilize local farms who are seeing less business as a result of restaurant closures. Any donations made to “Pay It Forward” will go to farmers, enabling them to sell deeply discounted produce to restaurants who will then donate to F&B workers in the form of weekly supplemental provision boxes.

“Over the past 10 years, Feed the Need has served well over 500,000 meals and raised millions of dollars to help our community feed the hungry,” says Bakst. “Feed the Need wholeheartedly supports Michael and the other area restaurateurs in this amazing effort to help feed our staff.” The organization’s $10,000 donation and other funds raised to date will be combined to extend the program indefinitely.

Other establishments like Taco Boy, FIG, Cru Catering, and Mercantile & Mash are also joining the cause. Each restaurant will source from their existing purveyors with a goal of making a maximum of 50 bags per day in order to keep up with social distancing standards. Shemtov feels that this collaboration will enable the initiative to truly make a difference. “Joining together to embrace a larger effort focused on nourishing others makes me proud to live and work here,” says Shemtov.

To donate a provision bag, head to payitforwardcharleston.org, and food and beverage employees in need of the essentials can sign up to receive a bag here

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