Sarasota Restaurants Shift to Support Those in Need

During the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants have been feeding hungry kids, police officers, front-line health care workers and many more.

By Cooper Levey-Baker April 16, 2020

Bagged lunches being prepared at The Overton.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rosemary District restaurant The Overton has become a sandwich factory, cranking out hundreds of bagged lunches that are delivered to nonprofits like the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County and Harvest House, who distribute them to people in need. The Overton staff is packing as many as 320 lunches every day, Monday through Friday.

"We're like a well-oiled machine," says Christian Hershman, who owns the restaurant with Michael Martella, the president of Boar's Head.

Between the bag, the food and staff time, each lunch costs $4, which is being covered by donations. Gulfstream Provisions, a Sarasota company that distributes Boar's Head products, takes hundreds of lunches from the restaurant to the Boys & Girls Clubs, which provide programs for young people in need. Hershman, meanwhile, delivers more lunches to Harvest House, a nonprofit that assists homeless families.

La Mucca Ballerina owner and chef Marsilio Zappaterreno (right) delivers meals to Second Chance Last Opportunity.

The Overton isn't alone in its efforts. This week, Sarasota's La Mucca Ballerina delivered more than 300 meals to Second Chance Last Opportunity, which provides services like youth mentoring, counseling and more to those in need. Avlí Mess Hall, meanwhile, delivered meals to the Sarasota Police Department, and the Front Line Appreciation Group is using donated money to provide meals purchased at discounted prices from local restaurants for people like nurses and emergency medical technicians who are treating those with COVID-19.

Such programs help people in need and also keep restaurant staffs working. Like many restaurants hurt by the pandemic, The Overton has limited its hours and has shifted to filling takeout orders over the phone. Its bagged lunch program is currently funded through the end of April, but Hershman hopes to keep it going next month, as well. The restaurant is asking people to cover the cost of the lunches for a month at a time—$120 per person—but is accepting any level of support. "This is all so unprecedented," Hershman says.

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