by Daniel Wang, Staff Writer, November 2020
From social distancing restrictions to mask requirements, the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced numerous logistical challenges for the EXCEL Department. In light of the difficulties associated with physical volunteering, the Community Service Core has continued to develop innovative solutions to help local organizations. One of their latest projects is the More Good Takeout Campaign, an initiative aimed at helping both local restaurants and hunger relief organizations during these unprecedented times.
The premise of the More Good Takeout Campaign is simple: participating restaurants will donate a portion of their sales from students to hunger relief organization Three Squares New England—a Northeast-based operation which partners with over 25 local food recovery agencies, soup kitchens, and food banks—through the EXCEL Fund.
EXCEL faculty member Linda Hurley hopes that students’ purchases at participating restaurants will trigger a sequence of altruistic acts. Hurley elaborated, “I think the project will have so many participants that it’ll create ripples of hope. Your one little dinner will inspire other people to eat out, which will help the restaurants, and the restaurants will help Three Squares New England, which will in turn help all the partners of Three Squares.”
One important element of the More Good Takeout Campaign is its aim to highlight restaurants from a variety of neighborhoods. Because a large number of students and faculty live in a small variety of towns, there is a tendency to cater to service opportunities in these areas. The Community Service Core is actively working to limit this proclivity by finding establishments located throughout the Greater Boston Area. Hurley specified, “We really want to be representative of the Nobles community, so we want restaurants in Hyde Park and we want restaurants in Watertown and we want restaurants wherever students live. We don’t want it to be just Dedham, Westwood, Needham.”
Besides encouraging participation from restaurants located in a variety of towns, the Community Service Core is also focusing on supporting community-owned establishments. “We’re trying to focus on local restaurants, not big, nationwide chains because local restaurants need the business,” EXCEL faculty member Holly Bonomo said. Smaller, family-owned establishments typically do not possess the emergency capital and labor resources that many regional and national chains do. They have, therefore, been hit the hardest by the pandemic. “I saw a report this morning that some small restaurants are going into hibernation because they can’t afford to stay open, but they’re not ready to throw in the towel,” Hurley said.
To incentivize participation from local restaurants, the EXCEL Department has implemented a flexible donation policy for contributing businesses. Instead of mandating a percentage of sales that each participating venue must donate, the Community Service Core has worked closely with each establishment to devise an appropriate contribution plan. “For some of the small restaurants, we just want them to give what they can,” Hurley said. She added, “It’s a sort of sliding scale because larger or chain restaurants can afford to give more than small restaurants which employ just a few people because of different profit margins.”
Although it may seem difficult to find family-owned restaurants willing to donate some of their proceeds to nonprofit organizations, Sam Farber (Class I), a leader of Community Service Core, has found quick success in convincing Dedham restaurants like Blue Ribbon BBQ and Pancho’s Taqueria to join the More Good Takeout Campaign. He employed an in-person strategy to communicate the basics of the program directly with restaurant management. “I would just walk in, and I would ask the owner or manager, and if they weren’t there, I would ask a coworker, and then I would lay out the proposal,” Farber said. He continued, “Most of the restaurants have done stuff like this in the past, so they were pretty used to it”.
Blue Ribbon BBQ, for example, hosts numerous fundraising events with local groups and organizations every year in an effort to help better the community. The venue’s website states, “For us, it’s been a longstanding tradition of doing what’s right—serving the community the most delicious BBQ around, and paying it forward within our local communities of loyal customers.”
Blue Ribbon BBQ’s dedication to philanthropy is proof that small restaurants, which depend on the support of local residents, benefit off of assisting their communities. Hurley hopes that, through the More Good Takeout Campaign, the relationships between students, local businesses, and nonprofit organizations will all strengthen through the act of giving. “When it all comes together, it’s going to be amazing,” Hurley said.
In this sense, the More Good Takeout Campaign is not only about addressing the problem of hunger relief, but it is also about bringing together students and the communities where they live in a time when in-person interactions have become less frequent and more difficult. Hurley said that these communal relationships are precisely what drives social change. She succinctly summarized the More Good Takeout Campaign by saying, “A quote from Margaret Mead is really applicable here. She said: ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.’”