GRAHAMSVILLE, NY — Catering special events at Catskill Regional has been part of the Neversink General Store’s repertoire for some time now. With the coronavirus outbreak, and those events being canceled, chef Jamie Stankevicius came up with another idea. The store would help provide lunches to the CRMC staff on a regular basis.
“We found out that the hospital staff was in need of food, so we just took some meals over,” said Mark McLewin, who is co-owner with his wife, Cristina Aby-Azar, of the general store.
It was a natural extension of what the store was doing to provide food to the community.
“We started offering breakfast sandwiches to students during our normal hours between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. Our customers wanted to be part of it and many of them contributed money to offset the expense. We do less of that now, as the school started to do the reverse busing to deliver lunches,” he said.
Now, he said, the initiative to provide lunches to medical workers has become a community collaborative effort. The Grahamsville Ambulance Corps, Claryville Fire Department, Tri-Valley Teachers Association and Frost Valley YMCA are all donating food. The store is facilitating the tracking and safe handling of the donated food, preparing it and delivering it several times a week. So many people are donating, McLewin is keeping a separate tab on the growing number of supporters.
“Sal from Boars Head is donating the meat for sandwiches next week,” McLewin said.
Speaking about the store, McLewin noted that different supply chains of food have opened up, as his traditional suppliers are not able to keep up with demand.
“We were out of toilet paper for only three days. Now we are receiving supplies from industrial suppliers.” As the institutions, like schools, are not ordering, the store has access to industrial suppliers for goods like toilet paper, paper towels and pasta.
McLewin, who is also on the board of the Catskill Food Hub which has seen a dramatic increase in participation, said that some businesses are scaling up, and some businesses are needing to scale back. The store has backed pizza and Philadelphia cheesesteak sandwiches out of the menu due to lack of volume.
“How do you scale up quickly? How far do you scale back? These are the decisions that you have to make.”
One thing is for sure, the community is rallying around its hospital workers and, in the middle of a pandemic, there really is something called a free lunch.
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