IdaRose Sylvester, chair of the city's Human Relations Commission, is behind Mountain View Appetite for Good. The nonprofit allows people to purchase vouchers for meals from local restaurants to feed a family through Community Services Agency (CSA) in Mountain View, which provides social services including food and rent assistance.
"Demand for their food programs and food assistance was growing incredibly fast, historic levels of demand for food," Sylvester said of CSA at the start of the pandemic. "But I also realized at the same time that our local restaurants, which in Mountain View are such a part of our culture, our heritage … they were suffering horribly, too."
Diners eat outside at Ristorante Don Giovanni on Castro Street in Mountain View, one of the restaurants that has partnered with Appetite for Good. Photo by Magali Gauthier.
Within a week of launching, people had donated more than 120 meals through Appetite for Good.
Sylvester started with three partner restaurants in Mountain View — Ristorante
Don Giovanni, Esphesus and Olympus Caffe & Bakery — but hopes to expand with more, as well as additional nonprofit partners. She has since added Los Portales, a longtime Mexican restaurant on Moffett Boulevard, as well as Hobee's, Rumble Fish and Blue Line Pizzeria.
People can buy vouchers for meals online, and Community Services Agency then distributes the vouchers to their clients. (Donations are tax deductible as an in-kind donation to Community Services Agency.) The restaurants receive the full price of the voucher.
Community Services Agency supports hundreds of food insecure families each week in Mountain View, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills.
"Our clients are really struggling right now. For many, it is so difficult to find resources of any kind, particularly food," CSA Executive Director Tom Myers said in a press release. "Helping local restaurants also keeps people employed, then hopefully they won't need CSA's services."
The donated meals, like penne pomodoro melanzane from Don Giovanni or chicken souvlaki from Olympus, also give the recipients a sense of normalcy, Sylvester said — "that moment of not having to do the dishes or worry about where my meal's going to come from."
Mehmet Vural, owner of Olympus Caffe and Ephesus, said he "joined this program because it is a good way to be a part of this community in this challenging time."
Sylvester, who runs the new nonprofit on the side of her full-time job as the founder of a high-tech marketing firm, said she hopes Appetite for Good has "long-term staying power."
"Even outside of a pandemic these are two needs that still exist," she said. "People are still hungry in the community and restaurants are always riding the margin."
Sylvester encouraged local restaurant owners and nonprofits who are interested in partnering with Appetite for Good to reach out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 408-504-9860.
For more information about Appetite for Good, go to facebook.com/mvappetiteforgood.