Community helps foot the bill for meals at Tilda's – Spectrum News

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While getting set for the lunch rush at Kingston’s Tilda’s Kitchen and Market is routine, what isn’t routine is who will be footing the bill.
“I came to a free lunch a couple of weeks ago and I absolutely loved it. I said ‘Chris, I have to do this too,’ ” said Greg McCollough, the sponsor of that day’s lunch.
Chris Hewett is the manager of Tilda’s, and executive director of Hudson Valley Current, a Kingston nonprofit dedicated to local economic development. Hewett said it’s a new model for restaurants.
“It’s a real pleasure because I used to have a restaurant, but we weren’t able to do great things for the community, and now for the last two years, we’re able to pay meals forward and be as generous as we can,” said Hewett.
Tilda’s is trying to level the playing field with what they know best: a warm meal. It’s a full-service restaurant, dishing out pancakes and breakfast sandwiches alongside that day’s free lunch.
Instead of tips, customers have the option to throw their change in a glass vase next to the register. Everything in it goes into a fund that foots the bill for free lunches, something some Kingston residents need a little help with.
Ulster County legislator Eve Walter’s team published a study on food insecurity in the county and the results are tough to swallow. A projected 19% of Kingston residents live below the poverty line.
But lunch at Tilda’s is trying to help. Those wishing to donate can do so on a single-meal basis, or for an entire lunch rush, with donations coming from “regulars” to local corporations.
McCollough’s job is in child welfare, but when he’s off the clock, he’s at Tilda’s. He moved his remote office to Tilda’s, just so he could meet those coming for lunch.
“I’m working from here today to be amongst the people, and when people come, I want to talk to people, get to know them a little better and see if there is anything else they need that I can help through the program,” said McCollough.
“I just want people to come together and uplift each other.”

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