London-Middlesex Restaurant Support Fund: Middlesex Economic Development Spotlight

The London-Middlesex Restaurant Support Fund was formed to make grants of $1000 to eligible, independent restaurant operators to support their businesses to open or remain open amid the challenges of COVID-19. It is a partnership of McCormick Canada and Club House for Chefs, the Middlesex London Food Policy Council, Pillar Nonprofit Network, rTraction, and the Western Fair District with promotional support from Middlesex County.

Cara Finn, Director of Economic Development for Middlesex County, is interested in helping those whose first thoughts are not about themselves, but about how they can help their communities and neighbors. When asked why she thought it was important to support local restaurants during this time, Cara responded,  “These people work so hard, and I can tell you within the first couple of days of COVID-19, many of the questions I had from restaurant operators in the county and in London was not, ‘what are we going to do’ or you know, ‘my business is going to fail’, it was ‘how can we help?’, ‘how can we help our staff that we may have to do temporary layoffs for?’, ‘how can we connect with other employers in the region such as those in agriculture that are maybe ramping up their season while we have to go into this period of flux and pivoting?’ It was incredible.” 

We’ve all seen local restaurateurs stepping up to feed communities in times of need and support their neighbors. Whenever there is a natural disaster or local tragedy, there is always a local restaurant somewhere handing out meals to first responders and victims, and a donation box to support victims right next to the cash register. Local, independent restaurants are often the first to step forward to help, and now they are the ones in need.  Says Cara, “They are so deserving of our support.” We couldn’t agree more. It’s great to hear of the sense of community that occurs in this industry, and wonderful to hear that the County of Middlesex is willing to help and contribute to the efforts of the support fund trying to give back to our local restaurants..

Cara also emphasized that the fund helps our local restaurants by validating the hard work that they are doing. Most are one the front lines as essential food services keeping essential workers fed and healthy as they have been working across our communities, and satisfying residents looking for a little relief from the tedium of home isolation and their own labors in the kitchen. Being ready to safely receive us during the pandemic has required considerable effort and expense on the part of restaurants pivoting to carry-out and patio-only service. “It validates the effort that they’ve placed into making sure that we’re taken care of, making sure that we are healthy and safe, and allows them just a small smidgen of financial backing to be able to do what they’re already doing, which is go one step beyond.”

Creative solutions are continuing to emerge in Middlesex County, such as the four additional pop-up patios in the Strathroy downtown core that allow for more dining space, and the extension of market seasons such as with the Komoka Market, which will now be able to extend its season until Thanksgiving.

Middlesex County, together with the Middlesex London Health Unit, Middlesex London Food Policy Council, Middlesex Federation of Agriculture, Tourism Industry Association of Ontario, and with help from the Federal Economic Development Association of Southern Ontario, recently launched the Middlesex County Culinary Guide, which is available online at https://www.visitmiddlesex.ca/plan/maps-guides/middlesex-county-culinary-guide, as well as in print this week. The Middlesex County Culinary Guide showcases restaurants in the Middlesex community, along with markets, and food producers, that all work together to make things happen for our community. With great, local restaurants in every community in the London Middlesex area, there are lots of options. –dDrop by any of them, say “thanks for being there for the community,” and enjoy some carry-out or al fresco dining.

With one last message for our local restaurants, Cara gives voice to the appreciation we all hold for our hard-working restaurant community. “At Middlesex County our whole message for economic development is really one of appreciating the businesses that invest in our community. That’s the message I want to give people. It doesn’t go unnoticed. We know how hard people are working. We know the stresses, both financial and emotional, that are happening for each of us as individuals, but then add that tenfold if you are trying to operate a business in this climate. The main message is that we see them, we know how much work they have put into it, and we’re here to support them.” 

 

Thank you Cara Finn and Middlesex County!

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