BAY VILLAGE

The Bay Village Community Services Department is providing residents with free meals prepared by Edwins, a French restaurant in Cleveland known for hiring reformed inmates.

The program is called the Circle of Food Free Hot Meal Program and is a joint effort with the Western Reserve Area Agency on Aging. The goal is to help those who have been economically impacted by the pandemic and cannot afford food.

“There's a misconception about Bay Village that everyone here is financially secure, but there are a lot of people in the community who are struggling to make ends meet,” said Director of Community Services Leslie Selig. “We want to help them any way we can.”

Those who cannot afford food are considered food insecure. The city is offering 100 meals every week through December. There are no requirements and anyone is eligible. The program has been successful, with nearly every meal being distributed last week, Selig said.

Meals will be distributed at 4 p.m. Thursdays at the Bay Village Senior Center, 300 Bryson Lane. There is no set menu and what is made depends on the surplus food at Edwins. Those interested must call 440-899-3409 to register every week to get a meal.

“When registering for the event, the agency needs the participant’s ethnicity, ZIP code and age to reserve a spot,” Selig said. “While anyone can register, we’d mostly like this food to go to those with food insecurities and the elderly.”

Edwins is a nonprofit organization that launched in 2007 to prepare inmates for the culinary industry after prison. The organization began teaching cooking classes at Grafton Correctional Institution in 2011 and opened its first restaurant in 2013. Now there are four food service businesses under Edwins: Edwins Bakery, Edwins Butcher Shop, Edwins and Edwins Too.

Edwins and Westerm Reserve began the service last summer and delivered more than 6,000 meals a week to homeless shelters throughout Cuyahoga County. This time around, the two plan to deliver more than 2,500 every week, according to data provided by the agency.

Bay Village joined Western Reserve’s efforts to fight food insecurity earlier this month. The city joins Fairview Park and Westlake, which are also using the program, according to information provided by the agency.

Last summer the city provided a free products program for the city and surrounding communities that lasted six weeks and donated more than 400 boxes of food, Selig said.

While it has always been in an issue, food insecurity during the pandemic has gotten worse. In 2019, about 10.5% of all U.S. households experienced food insecurity at some point, according to data provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This year, it’s estimated that 23% of households will be affected because of the pandemic, based on a study done by Northwestern University in Illinois.

In Cuyahoga County, it was estimated that about 199,390 people, about 15.8% of the population, were food insecure before the pandemic. That number is expected to reach 20% by the end of the year, according to Feeding America, the nation's largest hunger relief organization.

“Bay Village is not immune to what’s happening around us,” Selig said. “COVID-19 has put a whole new level of need where folks have lost their jobs or have been laid off and can’t afford food.”

Contact this reporter at akamczyc@westlifenews.com or 216-307-6614.

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