After reading a Chicago Sun-Times story on how soldiers staffing the United Center mass vaccination site were short on food to eat, restaurant owner Robert Magiet knew he needed to help.
“I saw that and thought that was absolutely ridiculous. These are our Army soldiers,” Magiet said. “It’s not even just about the soldiers, it’s about everyone else working there as well.”
So Magiet, who owns TaKorea Cocina in Ukrainian Village, decided to partner up with other local restaurants to donate Chicago-style meals to the 101st Airborne Division and other UC staffers and volunteers through his organization, West Town Feeds. And he set up a GoFundMe page so that Chicagoans who want to participate can pitch in money to supply the meals, too.
Magiet estimates he has delivered close to 1,200 meals to those staffing the United Center. West Town Feeds’ last delivery, on Saturday, consisted of 900 tamales from a duo of sisters located on Sacramento Ave. between Fullerton Ave. and Milwaukee Ave.
“I asked the soldiers what kind of foods they’ve had, and I don’t think a single one of them ever said they had a real Chicago street tamale,” he said.
Magiet created West Town Feeds, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing hot meals for people who experience housing insecurities, during the holiday season in December.
Since then, he’s created partnerships with different restaurants providing food to whoever needs it — the latest being a St. Patrick’s Day food drive that provided free meals to hospitality workers.
“This is also to help support our local, small restaurants. This can provide resources and money to struggling businesses,” Magiet said.
Other restaurants involved in West Town Feeds include Fatso’s Last Stand, R Public House, Luella’s Southern Kitchen and Soul & Smoke.
Brian Tondryk, owner of Bartoli’s Pizzeria, said he jumped at the chance to help West Town Feeds because of the “suffering” communities have gone through, donating about 500 pizzas since the effort kicked off in December.
“We see a lot of our customers or people in general being out of work and struggling,” Tondryk said. “We wanted to do our part and help as many people as we can.”
Magiet hopes he’ll be able to provide even more meals, regardless of donations from the public. Next on Magiet’s delivery menu? Italian beef sandwiches.
“We’re doing it at the cost of the food and the labor,” Magiet said. “So we can spread the money as far as possible and we’re getting them real Chicago food.”