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'Everybody deserves a nice meal' says Dayton nonprofit marking third anniversary of feeding area residents

A team of cooks and volunteers packaging trays of chicken, mashed potatoes and coleslaw.
Alejandro Figueroa
A team of cooks and volunteers packaging trays of chicken, mashed potatoes and coleslaw.

Miami Valley Meals began feeding food insecure Dayton area residents early in the pandemic. Now, the group of former culinary professionals who founded the nonprofit are marking its third anniversary with a special event at Second Street Market.

At the Miami Valley Meals kitchen there's an automatic meal packing machine, big freezers full of food and cooks preparing everything from creamy blue cheese steak pasta to orange pineapple cobbler.

On a Tuesday morning, a team is packing trays of mashed potatoes with chicken, coleslaw and cobbler for dessert.

Amanda DeLotelle, the executive director of MVM, said it’s like a version of the Food Network cooking show, Chopped but much bigger.

The nonprofit sources most of its ingredients from donated and reclaimed foods from commercial food distributors and organizations like the Dayton Foodbank.

The chefs plan meals using the received ingredients and send them packaged to other nonprofits distribution — for free.

DeLotelle said their mission has been simple from the very beginning.

“A meal can elevate your mood. It can make you feel comfort. It can remind you of maybe a better time,” DeLotelle said. “And if we can bring a little bit of hope and love through food, that's what we want to do. And we think everybody deserves a good meal made with dignity and just that taste good.”

Patricio Andrade, affectionately known as "Chef Papi," is one of the cooks. He’s traveled all across the country from New York City to Colorado as a restaurant manager.

Although, he said this has been one of his most rewarding jobs.

“Here it’s not about the pay, it’s what you do for the community, what you do to make the best food.” Andrade said. “We do 100% with our hearts. All the meals go to the community, for the people to eat the best. And we put all the love we can into it.”

Alejandro Figueroa
Left to right: Patricio "Chef Papi" Andrade, Tahler Robins, Amanda DeLotelle.

Miami Valley Meals got its start early in the pandemic after DeLotelle and a group of other Dayton area culinary professionals were furloughed from the hospitality and restaurant industry.

In response to address local food insecurity during COVID shutdowns, a colleague of DeLotelle, Matt DeAngulo, got a team together and got to work.

“The pandemic was coming. And he reached out to say ‘all of our friends are going to lose their jobs in the hospitality industry.’ And maybe there's a way we can come together and really help the food insecure because this is going to be a devastating thing to people that are struggling to eat.” DeLotelle said.

The team cooked meals at the House of Bread kitchen, the St. Vincent de Paul Gateway Shelter, the Life Enrichment Center and Lindy's Bakery at Daybreak.

Although now the group has its own kitchen at the corner of Washington Street and South Edwin C. Moses Boulevard. They also have a team of about eight full time workers and several volunteers for cooking, packing and warehousing.

DeLotelle said now, the plan is to keep cooking and giving hearty, nutritious meals to anyone who needs it in the Dayton area.

“Right now, we will stay really focused on the food and making just beautiful, dignified food,” DeLotelle said. “Everybody deserves a nice meal.”

Now, the nonprofit is marking its anniversary by launching a set of three spice blends crafted by their chefs. All of the profits made from the spices will go toward supporting the mission of Miami Valley Meals.

The group will host a pop-up table at Second Street Market starting Friday until Sunday, the schedule is below:

  • Friday March 24: 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. 
  • Saturday March 25: 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.
  • Sunday March 26: 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. 

Alejandro Figueroa is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Support for WYSO's reporting on food and food insecurity in the Miami Valley comes from the CareSource Foundation.

Alejandro Figueroa covers food insecurity and the business of food for WYSO through Report for America — a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Alejandro particularly covers the lack of access to healthy and affordable food in Southwest Ohio communities, and what local government and nonprofits are doing to address it. He also covers rural and urban farming

Email: afigueroa@wyso.org
Phone: 937-917-5943