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Hogarth’s Bar and Bistro will become a nonprofit restaurant focused on feeding vulnerable families in the community.
Though it will remain a fully functional restaurant serving up old favorites as well as new southern comfort food menu items to customers, Hogarth’s mission will be all about addressing food instability and nutritional deficiencies for families in need living at some of the area’s motels.
The restaurant will be open to the public, with proceeds used to fund efforts to deliver meals to underprivileged families in the area.
The “Community Table Project” is the brainchild of Catherine Upton, co-owner of Hogarth’s and executive director of Williamsburg Area Meals on Wheels.
Upton said her time with Meals on Wheels has shown her there is a growing trend of families living in local motels who call and ask for help obtaining food, which inspired her to take a new approach to feeding the Williamsburg area.
Meals on Wheels serves hundreds of people in the community annually, but its mission is limited to providing food for adults with physical or mental impairments. Though the families calling in were certainly in need of food, their circumstances made them ineligible for Meals on Wheel’s services.
“That doesn’t mean we put down the phone and stop thinking about them though,” Upton said.
Upton felt compelled to do something for these families who were falling through the gaps, and this summer she began developing the the Community Table Project as a way to address their needs.
There were several criteria Upton had in mind for the kind of program she wanted to create. First and foremost, she knew numerous organizations, including local churches and William & Mary’s Campus Kitchens Project, offer food services to different groups of people and geographic areas, and she wanted to make sure she was not duplicating what they were already offering.
“We don’t want to step in where others are already doing good work,” Upton said.
After zeroing in on a handful of area motels where several families who experience food-instability were living, Upton turned her attention to the kinds of foods Hogarth’s might be able to provide them. Rather than rely on the stuff of traditional food banks – canned goods and other nonperishables – she wanted the families served by the Community Table Project to experience fresh, healthy local produce sourced from nearby farms.
KelRae Farm in Toano, which already provides fresh produce to several local schools and nonprofits, was the first farm to come on board with the project. Hogarth’s chef is currently in the process of traveling to and building relationships with other area farms in the hopes of creating partnerships with many different suppliers.
With a vulnerable population identified and a food supply chain in place, the last piece of the puzzle was securing the manpower to prepare the food and get it to the people. Inspired by a friend’s school-age child with autism, Upton decided that the Community Table Project was an ideal outlet to provide a training program for students with disabilities.
Starting in February, students with disabilities who have an interest in working in hospitality or food services can take part in an eight- to twelve-week program where they will have the chance to learn workplace skills pertaining to the industry. Upon completion of the program, Hogarth’s will help find them permanent employment at another area restaurant or hotel.
Though the job training program will not be in full swing until early next year, the restaurant is preparing to undergo the official switch to a nonprofit next week.
About 50 families, who have been identified by local motel managers, social workers and schools, will begin receiving a once-daily family-style food delivery, complete with a hearty main course, fresh and nutritious vegetable sides and salads, a dessert, plastic plates, utensils and an inspiring message.
“We’ve already been sending food out to the community, but this is a way to make our services regular and dependable,” Upton said.
Though all profits and proceeds from the restaurant will now be directed toward this mission, the actual dining experience for customers will look much the same as it always has.
Hogarth’s will remain a full-service restaurant serving customers daily. The biggest change will come in the form of new menu items, most of which will be southern comfort favorites in keeping with the project’s emphasis on bringing comfort to people in need.
The restaurant will also begin hosting quarterly wine dinners to raise additional money for the project.
To ease the transition, Hogarth’s is hosting an Open House from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Dec. 3. Guests will have the opportunity to sample the new menu items as well as ask questions and get information about the new program directly from Upton and co-owner Chris Hogarth.
“Our passion is feeding those who are hungry,” Upton said. “This project is about feeding those in need, but also building relationships with the community.”