As chef proprietor of Charleston Restaurant in Hudson, NY for over 19 years, Carole Clark fed many Columbia County residents and visitors. While she was aware of the state of food insecurity for many families in the area, it wasn’t until 2006, when she sold the restaurant and began working with children living in Hudson, that she realized the enormity of the problem.
Carole’s work with kids included teaching them about vegetable gardening, cooking, baking and sitting at a table to share a meal. While she found the experience to be rich and satisfying, it also became hard to ignore that the majority of the children had poor diets and lacked proper nutrition.
Then Covid-19 struck.
How would those who were not eating well before the pandemic deal with the economic impact of job losses due to the shutdown? The situation was bound to exacerbate the food insecurity they were already experiencing.
Carole remembered the hungry children and the stories they shared about their family meals. It was at this point that she decided to create a kitchen that could feed those in need.
With no chef, kitchen, Department of Health Certification, or funding, Carole reached out to the community. The response was immediate. Everyone she spoke with was cooperative, enthusiastic and eager to help.
In less than three weeks, this band of friends and partners—all volunteers—delivered on all that was needed.
Pam Kline, Carole’s most valued supporter, offered encouragement, experience and the ability to get things done fast. First on the to-do list: find a sponsor.
The Columbia County Board of Health (CCBH) requires a sponsor for certification. Pam reached out to her wide-ranging list of contacts. The Columbia County Democratic Committee (CCDC) stepped up and provided liability insurance. With CCBH certification, Carole and Pam were able to move quickly to structure the all-volunteer project.
Carole focused on the kitchen.
Pam reached out to social service agencies and schools for referrals of people at risk. She recruited and trained drivers.
“Our wonderful community provided confidence in the value of the project along with a strong desire to help,” said Clark. “There was no time for meetings or interviews. Individuals, the faith community and the referring organizations made things happen fast, with just a phone call or two. It was magical.”