PROCTORSVILLE, Vt. – In a little over two weeks, Neal Baron, owner of Neal’s Bar and Restaurant in Proctorsville, has gone from uncertainty to a laser focused purpose while navigating through the new normal of the COVID-19 pandemic. Driving him is the need to help his community in the best way he knows how – through great food.
Enter his brainchild, “Feed a Friend for Five.” The concept is simple. Purchase a meal from his takeout menu, which is published on Facebook nightly, add $5 to your bill, and that will deliver his nightly meal special to a community member in need. The idea is an extension of one he heard happening in a Philadelphia pizza shop that encouraged patrons to buy an extra slice for a future customer who might be in need.
“We’re incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to help out the community…It brings us huge purpose and meaningful work to go to.”
The restaurant has put new health and safety measures in place to do their part in keeping their neighbors safe. Pickup is curbside only. On most days, they have a dedicated delivery driver who services a certain radius in Cavendish and Ludlow, possibly expanding beyond that in the future.
Inside, a dedicated packaging person assembles the food hands-free, then delivers the food outside to a drop area, avoiding any handoff to a customer. Neal himself is the dedicated order taker, capturing a car’s make, model, and color during the order process so they can identify patrons in the parking lot. Payment is also done over the phone.
His nightly special donated meals are delivered currently on weekends to the recipients of the local Meals on Wheels program who have opted in. During the week, Neal is looking to add anyone in the area who is experiencing food insecurity to that list. He has developed a flyer that he is circulating to help spread the word on the program, urging folks to call 802-226-7251 if they would like to receive his nightly meal. Individuals can also purchase a meal for only $5 if they choose.
In addition to individual $5 donations, additional financial donations or food have been contributed. Just recently, Golden Stage Inn owners Michael and Julie Wood have donated their signature chocolate chip cookies, adding a sweet treat to each meal.
As the program begins to grow, Neal says the response he’s received on the program is incredibly satisfying. “It’s a great feeling to know we put a smile on someone’s face,” he said.
Neal’s Restaurant hours are from 3-7 p.m., seven days a week, although if needed, he will stay open later. You can find their daily menu on Facebook.