Good news Thursday: Musician couple funds food pantry, restaurants ease meal uncertainty


Musician couple performs for food pantry funds

Musicians David Shenton and Erin Shields perform inside their home. The married couple has led virtual concerts from their living room to raise thousands of dollars for the Mosaic West Queens Church food pantry, where they volunteer every weekend. (AP Photo/Emily Leshner)

David Shenton and Erin Shields lived life as touring musicians before the pandemic began. The couple traveled worldwide to perform popular Broadway songs. But now, the married duo performs in their living room for a much greater cause: funding the food pantry at Mosaic West Queens Church. When Shenton and Shields first lost work at the beginning of the pandemic, they began seeing the lines to the food pantry lengthen. So they decided to bring their talents online and began hosting virtual concerts to raise money for the food pantry.  

The two have raised thousands of dollars for the cause and even include other special guests from Broadway to accompany them in their performances. Shields belts out songs like “Being Alive” from the musical “Company” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from “The Wizard of Oz” while Shenton accompanies her on piano or violin. The two wanted to use the talents they had to contribute in what way they could. Not only do they perform to raise money, but they also volunteer at the food pantry. “I thought, I’m not a doctor … I don’t really have much to offer. But then I thought, well, you know, we can perform,” Shields told the Associated Press. “It’s just something my mom always said: ‘If you’re feeling low, volunteer, give back to other people because it will make you feel better.’”

Cuban cooks get creative to overcome food shortages

Yuliet Colon pulls her rolling grocery cart as she walks home after a visit to the agro market. Colon helps Cubans cope with shortages exacerbated by the new coronavirus pandemic with Facebook posts of culinary creations designed around what is actually available at the market. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Yuliet Colón is tackling the difficulties of resource scarcities in Cuba one recipe at a time. With her Facebook page ”Recipes from the Heart,” Colón is helping her 12,000 Cuban followers find substitutes when food shortages eliminate certain ingredients from grocery store shelves. Malanga root substitutes potato, pork substitutes chicken, and peanuts can even substitute beans with the help of Colón’s recipe. She and many other cooks in Cuba are striving to help community members make meals despite food uncertainty.

Gross domestic product income decreased 11% in Cuba last year. The lack of tourism revenue in the country due to the pandemic and U.S. sanctions created by former President Donald Trump increased scarcities in grocery stores. Long lines stretch outside the storefronts, with people waiting upwards of 40 minutes to step inside only to find little food and resources available to customers. The recipes Colón provides help others work around these issues. Though the food shortage creates many difficulties, she tries to still add messages of positivity in her posts to encourage community members. “The kitchen is my happy place, where I am calmer and I feel better,” Colón told the Associated Press.

Town rallies in restaurants to pay for other’s meals

Receipts for pre-paid meals hang on the wall inside Zack’s Cafe. Customers pay for them so that people in need, many of them struggling financially due to the coronavirus pandemic, can get a meal, judgment-free and no questions asked. (Zack’s Cafe via AP)

In Miami, Oklahoma, restaurants are decorating their walls with receipts as a way to give back. The receipts are a way for people to prepay for meals for others who can’t afford them, no questions asked. Many of the meals go to the homeless or others that were hit hard by the pandemic. The trend spread from cafe to cafe in the small towns in upper Oklahoma, starting with The Dawg House. When the idea was first introduced the gourmet hot dog stand flooded with prepaid meals. “It’s the whole community behind it,” Derrick Hayworth the owner of a food delivery company told the Associated Press. “It wasn’t forced. It was just meant to happen.”

Not only does the town of 13,000 have a large homeless community, in February two blizzards hit, hurting the community even more. The town rallied together to ensure people without homes were taken care of. Mayor Bless Parker helped supply them empty hotel rooms to house them and used the restaurant receipts to supply them food. In one experience she provided a meal for a couple and their four daughters. “They were just so sweet, and their parents were beyond grateful and thankful,” Parker told the Associated Press. “They seemed like they had a lot going on and got to sit for an hour and a half or so to just have a meal, have fun and laugh, and not worry about how much they were having to spend.”

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