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Pearl District restaurant serves more than 6,000 free or reduced cost meals during COVID-19 outbreak

Botanist House is teaming up with their suppliers to serve more than 600 free or reduced-cost lunches a day throughout Portland during the COVID-19 pandemic.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Botanist House, a popular place for craft cocktails and cuisine in Portland’s Pearl District, is working overtime to feed the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In doing so, they're also supporting their own industry from chefs and servers to their food and drink suppliers

“Basically, just trying to figure out how to best help the community,” said Matt Davidson, the co-owner of Botanist House. "And we felt the best way that we could do that would be to start by giving them free meals, mainly lunch meals.”

As the COVID-19 crisis forced businesses to close and put people out of work, Botanist House made a plan. They started a meal assistance program for people who’ve been laid off, had their businesses temporarily shut down, or have seen a major loss in business.

“It’s been really nice to come to work and feel like I’m genuinely providing something to real people around me,” said Executive Chef Derek Boaz.

So far, the Botanist Meal Assistance program has provided 6,200 meals. They’ve been able to put out about 620 meals every day. They hope to increase to 1,000 meals a day with more help from the community.  

“Everybody has really just rallied behind this entire cause to just make sure that we’re getting the things that we need to be able to continue to do good,” Davidson said, “So, it’s been really, really impressive.”

Many of the people they’re feeding are their own: laid-off restaurant workers like bartender Jamie Lanham.

“This has been amazing, honestly, I feel like we have such a community in the restaurant industry and it’s nice that some places are able to help us out,” Lanham said. "The food has been phenomenal. I mean, it’s just been a really great thing throughout all of this quarantine.”

Not only is this effort feeding people throughout Portland, it is also keeping people working.

The Botanist has been able to retain every single one of its employees, and also reached out to other restaurant industry workers to employ as delivery drivers. They've been able to hire additional workers a day, according to Davidson.

“It actually makes me feel really good to know that we have 15 to 20 more people employed than we did yesterday and it’s fun to see them get excited about helping the community; come in grab the meals, look at the meals and they feel good about what they’re doing as well. So, it’s really cool,” Davidson said.

It’s not just employees at Botanist House; the meal assistance program is also allowing distributors, farmers, and other growers to keep going during these hard times.

“So, we’re not going to thrive through this, but we will all together limp to the finish line. And that, I think, is the most important point; is that we’re trying to help everybody,” said Robbie Wilson, co-owner of Botanist House.

Donations are fueling their efforts, from the food and drinks they're delivering to the cars that get them there.

Seasn Brosnihan isn’t just making deliveries, he works with the non-profit Forth. It’s a non-profit that promotes the use of electric vehicles. They donated their fleet to make food deliveries to cut down on the program’s fuel costs.

“I’m so happy that we can partner with them and make a real difference right here,” Brosnihan said.

Botanist House is able to do this work because of support and donations for the community. To make a donation to the Botanist Meal Program or to request a free or reduced cost meal, visit botanisthouse.com

They’ll continue to fund-raise to keep feeding neighbors in need for as long as they can.

“This is a time when we need to look out for each other and make sure that everybody is taken care of and that’s what Portland is about and will continue to be about,” Davidson said.

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