Several Colorado marijuana brands have started a campaign that purchases pre-made meals from a handful of popular Denver restaurants and then gives those meals to struggling food-industry workers and local food banks.
Dubbed Meals That Heal, the campaign sprouted from another charitable project created by local marijuana companies, Friends in Weed, that started out buying gift cards from local restaurants at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, then distributing those gift cards to people financially impacted by the virus. That project was responsible for distributing $77,000 in restaurant gift cards, according to Friends in Weed.
Now the group wanted to makes its efforts more direct, according to Veritas Fine Cannabis marketing head Jon Spadafora, a founding member of Friends in Weed.
"When things starting shutting down again, we wanted to create something easier for other cannabis brands to get involved in. We wanted to donate some meals, but also wanted to find a way to benefit the restaurants that creates more volume and wasn't a one-time thing," he explains.
Veritas, along with marijuana brands Olio, Cookies, 1906, Dablogic, Higher Grade Verde Natural and the PR company Grasslands, are purchasing pre-made meals from restaurants in the Culinary Creative (Bar Dough, Señor Bear, Ash'Kara, Morin) and Big Red F Restaurant (Lola, Centro Mexican Kitchen, the Post Brewing Co., West End Tavern, Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar) groups that will be distributed to residents of communities where Friends in Weed businesses are located, as well as restaurant workers who've seen reduced hours or pay during the pandemic.
Meals That Heal has purchased 630 meals from the two restaurant groups so far, according to the campaign, and hopes to purchase more as the group recruits additional marijuana brands to join the cause. Individuals can also donate to the cause in return for a mask or T-shirt, Spadafora adds; the cost of individual meals ranges from $6 to $8.
"It creates some demand for these restaurants by ordering these meals, and they go to people who can use them," Spadafora explains. "We order the meals for the week, let the restaurant know how many we want, and they make them while we coordinate a pick-up."
Meals That Heal purchases will also be sent to Frontline Foods, which will then distribute the meals to various food banks throughout the city.
Since Colorado's recent spike of COVID-19 cases, the state's restaurant industry has seen another wave of restrictions and hard financial times as dining rooms were again ordered to close. In contrast, the pot industry has been declared critical by state public-health orders, and has tallied unprecedented revenue since the pandemic began in March.
"Our industry has been declared essential. It helps a lot of people in different ways," Spadafora says. "Cannabis companies have seen a good year. Sales are certainly strong. I don't think stepping up has anything to do with cannabis, but if you have the ability to help those in need, you should."