4 Rivers, local companies rehire staff to help package meals for those in need

Feed the Need Florida is a program dedicated to providing meals to students, families, the elderly and more during this public health crisis. 4 Rivers, a network of organizations and the Florida Department of Agriculture are coming together to feed Florida.

Inside the Calvary Church in Winter Park, an assembly line of people prepare thousands of lunches for students. The team is putting together 11,000 student meals a day!It all goes to supplement local public school systems throughout the state with donated meals to families in need.

“There’s no shortage of people in need and I think we’re just at the beginning of this – that a month or two from now those numbers of people in need are just going to increase,” said John Rivers, CEO of 4 Rivers and 4 Roots.

The 4 Rivers restaurant is partnering with the state and private companies to collect food donations.

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“From Walmart to Fresh Point to Cisco to hotels,” Rivers said. “All have donated their excess food to us and we’ve been able to turn those into family meals that we’re able to bless a lot of families in the community with.”

That means they’re hiring! Dozens of people in that church auditorium were furloughed by 4 Rivers weeks ago when their restaurant was forced to shut down and scale back. But now they are back at work making a difference.

“Even though it is different from what I was used to doing at 4 Rivers, this actually works out because you know, what you’re doing is impacting the community,” Carmen Gibson said.

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Gibson has experienced what it’s like to need food, but her life turned around when she went through the Second Harvest Foodbank Culinary Program and was hired at 4 Rivers.

“To go home and not know how you’re gonna eat and how you’re gonna pay your bills is really hurtful,” she said. “It hurts the person as a whole because you say, ‘I’ve done all I can and I still can’t make it.’ To be able to give back now is exciting. It’s humbling and it’s something I want to continue to do."

Rivers said they’ve been able to rehire 200 people, giving them jobs packaging meals and delivering them.

“We’re creating business to protect our company, we’re hiring people, bringing them back and we’re serving the community and filling a gap,” Rivers said. “The big blessing is now we’re able to take it out and help other businesses as well.”

Turning a painful pandemic into an opportunity to pay it forward.