With the ban on nonessential businesses country-wide, restaurants are finding innovative ways to create their delicious food and serve those in their communities. PekoPeko Ramen in Charles Village is one example.
PekoPeko started its Feed it Forward initiative and began to raise money through online donations to create, package and deliver fresh homemade meals to healthcare workers and the homeless.
Andrew Townson, restaurant partner, says the community has always been a big part of their mission.
“When (owner David Forster) was thinking about the concept of the ramen shop, one of the things that he missed most about living in Japan was the community experience of eating ramen. You go with your friend and you enjoy that bowl. We wanted to create that shared atmosphere is PekoPeko,” Townson says. “This felt like a natural extension of that value to involve a larger community outside of our dining room and to try to bring everyone together through food.”
With a goal of raising $150,000 by May 30, the restaurant hopes to feed those working in the emergency department at Union Memorial Hospital and the Franciscan Center Soup Kitchen in Baltimore City. But Townson and Forster also aim to give an entire paycheck to all the full-time employees at their restaurant.
“What is super awesome about the program is that we can continue paying our full-time staff while they are able to be home and stay safe and take care of their families. It is a win-win, which is nice for us,” he says.
So far the business has raised more than $30,000 through 145 donations, totaling more than 1,800 meals for the soup kitchen and hospital staff.
“With each meal costing about $16.67 to make (including the cost of labor, food and delivery), the company has a long way to go to feed all the people in need right now,” he says. “We are paying our full-time staff, but no one is working except for David. We did not think it was responsible for asking them to come into work at this time. So David is running the whole program and he is making vegetarian Japanese curry rice. We are serving that with some rice and some homemade kimchi.”
Also on the menu is one of their most popular dishes, gyu-don.
“It is thinly sliced beef spare ribs, also served with some rice and homemade kimchi, and some sauce,” he says. “They’re both really good, and the flavors in both dishes aren’t offensive. We are delivering hundreds of meals at a time. We can’t customize anything, so we figured these two were safe bets and most people really like them.”
So what happens after May 30? Townson says Peko Peko plans to keep this initiative running as long as they can.
“We are doing everything we can to keep the program up and running, and to keep the donations coming in,” he says. “We felt that this was a more sustainable option long term than doing takeout and delivery, but the question on every restaurant’s mind is ‘how long is long term.’ Is this may? Is this July? Is this August? I think we will try to keep it running for as long as we can. The response from the community has been so inspiring that we hope they will continue to support the program with the generosity that they have so far.”
To donate, visit their website.