Spark Café still feeding food insecure in midst of pandemic
The paid kitchen staff at Spark Community Café did not want the nonprofit restaurant to spend any of its on-hand cash to pay them, according to co-executive director Kyle Fannin, so the four employees took voluntary layoffs Monday, March 23. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” said Fannin of the layoffs. “But they made it easy. We’re a family. We’re all in this together. They want us to be ready … and keep enough money so we can keep feeding the food insecure because it’s going to get worse before it gets better.” Spark Community Café was recently awarded two grants to continue its mission of feeding local families who are food insecure through partnerships with various organizations, including Mentors & Meals on Thursdays. “We’ve been delivering 83 meals per day, which is about 320 meals per week,” said Lisa Johnson, founder and executive director of Mentors & Meals. Before Woodford County Public Schools started providing breakfasts to students two weeks ago, Spark Café served 725 breakfasts to those kids over three days, Fannin said. He said about 30 to 40 of the meals were picked up at the restaurant every morning, “but we delivered to over 100 each day using our volunteers.” Spark stopped curbside service after only serving 12 meals in three days, Fannin said. That level of business did not allow the nonprofit restaurant to continue its mission of allowing patrons to “pay it forward” to feed families facing food insecurity, he said. To continue its mission to feed those families in the days to come, Fannin said Spark needs online donations, which are being accepted via pay pal at sparkcommunitycafeky.org. He said any donation – even $5 or $10 – is greatly appreciated. “We’ll just (continue our mission) through volunteers until we’re able to open again and do the pay it forward,” he said. Before Gov. Andy Beshear’s decision to close all in-person dining at restaurants across Kentucky to slow the spread of COVID-19, Fannin said business “was through the roof,” and that growth was especially evident in the large number of events scheduled to be catered by Spark Community Café. “Just in March and April, we lost eight major events,” Fannin said. He said three large catering jobs at the University of Kentucky were among those cancelled as well as a Celebrity Jeopardy event with Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott and Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift competing alongside Woodford Judge-Executive James Kay, which had sold out. Spark Community Café celebrated its one-year anniversary March 27, and its nonprofit board remains committed to its mission of operating a restaurant that encourages people to pay it forward, Fannin said.