TRAVERSE CITY — Dining in is temporarily suspended, according to a recent order from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

In response, the Downtown Development Authority started the “Giving Thanks Through Giving Meals” program. Community members can order a $10 boxed lunch through the DDA website. Downtown Traverse City restaurants will assemble the food and distribute them to local organizations through Dec. 9, when the health department’s order is expected to lift.

DDA Community Development Director Katy McCain said the initiative aims to help locals in two ways: provide business for restaurants and give meals to those in need — whether employees or community members.

“We decided something needed to be done to help area restaurants,” McCain said. “We asked them how many lunches they could provide. Some of them — because of staffing and volunteers — right now don’t have the capacity to accept meals.”

Eight restaurants signed on to prepare meals for seven organizations.

The Dish Cafe co-owner Patty Hickman said she responded quickly when she received an email from the DDA asking for program participants.

“It’s a really cool thing,” Hickman said. “It’s something that is at least three-fold giving. It’s giving business to businesses that are in need of a boost now, giving to nonprofit organizations and helping the community. The giving goes a couple layers.”

The cafe will make meals for Goodwill Inn and the Grand Traverse County Health Department. Their drop-off date is not until Dec. 7, so the menu is still in the works. Hickman said they plan to pack the boxes with a main course, snacks, a homemade dessert — either a cookie or brownie — and possibly a side salad.

“We’ll probably do a simple but fresh and delicious ciabatta sandwich with turkey and/or ham,” she said.

At least two organizations sold out already, McCain said — Addiction Treatment Services and Women’s Resource Center. Mama Lu’s and the Good Bowl will supply their meals.

McCain said this initial response has been successful, showing the community wants to help. She said all organizations are deserving of support during this stressful time, but Munson Healthcare is perhaps the largest — with about 250 staff members in the COVID-19 area.

“It’s nice to help feed the staff who are helping with COVID,” McCain said. “That one could still use more purchases.”

McCain added that they hope to offer the program in the future, but first they are focusing on fundraising for the Downtown Relief Fund.

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