The Howard is a historic and elegant event space located in the heart of Oshkosh. The building, built in 1927, hosts private and community events. On Thursday and Friday evenings, the basement of the venue opens up to the public for bowling, craft beverages, and...
Like many in the Oshkosh community, I was affected by the pandemic. It’s the reason why my finance and I moved to Oshkosh in the first place. I know that others affected by the pandemic have not been as lucky, and I’m proud to help out however I can. This month, Nosh’s community spotlight is Rodney’s Cafe in Oshkosh, specifically his Meal-A-Thon program. I talked with Rodney about how the program works, how you can donate to the Meal-A-Thon, and what he has planned for the future.
How did the idea of the Meal-A-Thon take place? How long has it been going on for?
The idea of the Meal-A-Thon took place because of the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on the Oshkosh community. Many businesses were shutting down, people were being laid off, and entire families were suffering, especially children and the elderly. I had to do something that would help people cope with the situation even though my own business was being affected. As a restaurant owner, I realized that people’s need for food would be an ongoing need, in addition to other challenges they were facing like unemployment, housing, and even their health. This was a need I could address to help people whose lives were impacted by the pandemic. In January I decided to offer free meals to people who were laid off because their business was shut down, who are elderly, first responders, etc.
Who qualifies for a free meal?
To qualify for the free meals all a person must do is simply ask. Meals are meant for anyone facing financial difficulty for any reason: unemployment, homelessness, veterans, senior citizens, disabled individuals, anyone laid off due to a business shutdown, or any other issue relating to the economy or recent pandemic. First responders can also qualify for a free meal as a way of us saying ‘thank you’ for your service. When a person is in need, it is important to help them maintain their dignity and privacy as well. Therefore, they do not have to show proof of their circumstances. Most people are generally honest about their needs, and I cannot be overly concerned about people who may take advantage of the program when there are so many whose lives have been impacted by the pandemic.
If someone who was affected by the pandemic would like to order from the Meal-A-Thon, how can they do that?
We post our menus weekly on our Facebook page and shared in various Oshkosh Facebook groups like #supportlocaloshkosh. Meals are offered five days a week (Monday-Friday). Here are the steps to order a free meal:
- Plan to order your meal at least 24 hours in advance (no later than 9am on the day of) to ensure availability.
- Text the word “MEALATHON” to (920) 203-7749.
- When texting, please include the following information:
- Number of meals desired
- Date and time of pickup
Even before the pandemic, you were heavily involved with the Oshkosh community. What made you want to get involved/stay involved?
I wanted to get involved with the Oshkosh community because it’s where I live and where I operate my business. I love this community, and I wanted to show my love by doing what I love and do best which is to cook. When I started offering free meals, people could not believe it, especially when many restaurants were closing, going out of business, or struggling financially to stay open. People were so supportive of my cause to help those in need that they wanted to help as well. People have donated their time, resources and even money to help continue this effort. Because of the support I am receiving from private citizens, other businesses, corporations, and nonprofit organizations, I have been able to expand the services of the Meal-A-Thon to help others in need [that weren’t affected by the pandemic], and I will continue to offer free meals until the pandemic has ended.
In addition to items from the Meal-A-Thon, Rodney’s Cafe has wonderful items to order during their restaurant hours. What are some of your must-try items at Rodney’s Café?
Some of the must-try items at Rodney’s Café in Oshkosh are the breakfast burritos, and the Soul Food Sunday Dinners which are served on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of each month.
What does the future hold for Rodney’s Café? What is the next step?
The future is bright for Rodney’s Café in Oshkosh, aka, Rodney’s Meals. I plan to start a nonprofit organization that continues to help people in many other ways. My goal is to get a mobile kitchen that will enable me to take free hot meals anywhere food is needed.
If people would like to donate to the Meal-A-Thon, how can they do that?
Visit rodneysmeals.com and click on the Meal-A-Thon donation link button.
Other businesses in Oshkoh are doing their part to help with donations to the Meal-A-Thon. For the month of March, Bowenstreet Repeats is donating 20% of their sales to help with the Meal-A-Thon. In addition, the Pick n’ Save on Koehller St. is hosting a Penny Wars Fundraiser from March 7th through April 2nd, where the proceeds will go towards the Meal-A-Thon.