Milwaukee County’s Dine Out program pays small businesses to feed older residents
By Sam Woods
This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories about fifteen neighborhoods in the city of Milwaukee. Visit milwaukeenns.org.
When Angela Smith, co-founder of Daddy’s Soul Food & Grille, discovered a program last year that pays restaurants to provide food to seniors, she decided to participate.
Less than a year later, Smith noted the growing support for his business.
“Seniors call daily to find out how to sign up for our meal program,” Smith said.
Launched in 2021, Milwaukee County’s Dine Out program was born out of conversations about how to support local restaurants at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gaylyn Reske, senior restaurant program coordinator for the Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services, recalled an increase in cross-sector collaborations to support struggling restaurants, especially those owned by corporations. people of color.
“One of the best things that came out of COVID was all the community meetings,” said Reske, who added that it led to an unprecedented level of communication.
The goal of the Dine Out program is to provide affordable, culturally diverse food to senior residents while simultaneously supporting restaurants owned by people of color, women, and/or veterans.
Support for the program comes from the federal Seniors Act, which provides funding to states to feed elderly residents.
There is a suggested contribution of $3 for each meal, but diners can eat for free. All contributions are reinvested into funding the program and ultimately into participating restaurants.
Currently, three restaurants are participating: Daddy’s Soul Food & Grille, Orenda Cafe and Antigua Latin Inspired Kitchen.
How it works
Residents 60 and older who have signed up for the program can order for pickup once or twice a week, depending on the restaurant. Volunteers are available to deliver orders as needed.
There are no income restrictions for participating in the program. Participants will not be turned away due to low or high income.
VIA Community Development Corporation, formerly known as Layton Boulevard West Neighbours, is a community development organization working in the Layton Park, Burnham Park and Silver City neighborhoods near the South West Side. It is also an official partner of the Dine Out program with The Business Council. Both worked to coordinate funding and guide the program during the pilot phase.
Reske said there has been an “overwhelming response” from older diners who have chosen to use the program rather than the traditional “congregational” dining model. Reske believes it
is because diners have more flexibility over where and when they eat and who they can take with them.
“Senior dining centers can feel like walking into a high school cafeteria, while walking out is easier,” Reske said, adding that program participants can eat with their families.
Reske said funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, should sustain the program for the next two to three years.
VIA and the Business Council transferred their responsibilities to the Milwaukee Christian Center, citing the need for an organization with more experience with “direct service” to be involved in coordinating the program as it continues to grow.
For more information
Those interested in enrolling in the program can do so by calling 414-289-6995.
Restaurants owned by people of color, women and/or veterans can inquire about participation in the program by contacting Reske at [email protected]