In roughly 24 hours, the non-profit organization Musically Fed turned 7,000 pounds of food intended for events at Staples Center in Los Angeles into 24,000 meals for shelters and missions across the city.
The organization, which has been in operation for five years, was informed last Thursday that Manny Slomovits, executive chef for Levy at Staples Center, needed to unload perishable food after the arena was forced to cancel events due to the spread of the coronavirus in Los Angeles County.
By Friday, 12 pallets of food had been delivered to the Midnight Mission and Los Angeles Mission located near Skid Row. The food was not only delivered and dispersed, but presented in a fashion rarely seen by those facing food insecurity.
“They really went all out. It was almost like you went to brunch at a five-star hotel,” says AKMI publicist Andrea Kramer, who also works for Musically Fed. “They made really beautiful fruit platters and they took the time to make it special. What it does really for the people that visit them, and each of them serve between 500 and a thousand a day, is maintain some dignity. For people that are dealing with homelessness and lack of food that is really special.”
“Here’s the thing that’s so neat about Manny, he didn’t have an event he had to prepare [the unused food] for anymore. He did it for them. I just love that,” says Musically Fed founder Maria Brunner.
The Staples Center donation has already led to similar actions. Brunner tells Billboard the nonprofit will be collecting an assortment of packaged food and drinks from the Los Angeles Convention Center this week to distribute to local students. Last week, the Los Angeles Unified School District closed its schools to help lessen the spread of coronavirus, leaving many public school children across the county without school-provided meals.
“It is such a huge concern with the schools being closed and a lot of the children count on the food from schools for their sustenance,” says Kramer.
Upon learning that the LACC had unused food Levy wanted to donate, AEG legal counsel Jason Bernstein reached out to a LAUSD contact to help Musically Fed facilitate the turnover. Over the course of its five-year history, Musically Fed out of Scottsdale, Arizona, has banked on its industry connections to find new venues and tours willing to donate unused food to those in need. President and founder of Arizona Catering and Epicurean Events Mitch Katz previously connected Musically Fed with Levy during Grammys week, where they were able to repurpose unused food from the Grammy Awards, the after party, rehearsals, the MusiCares event and concessions from Staples Center, where the awards show was held. The two-minute clip below shows Brunner and Katz delivering some of the unused food to local shelters in L.A. following the Grammy events.
“There were a lot of connections, mutual connections that we had within the industry, which puts some legitimacy to it. That we were old hands at this and knew what we were doing,” says Brunner, who worked for concert promoter Concerts West for 14 years before launching Musically Fed.
Since launching, Musically Fed has repurposed unused backstage meals from numerous high-profile tours from artists including Florida Georgia Line, Shawn Mendes, Elton John, Iron Maiden, Kenny Chesney, The Lumineers, Fleetwood Mac and many more. It offers its services nationwide for all artists, promoters, venues and shows.
Musically Fed identifies the opportunities, procures the resources and coordinates all aspects of food handling, transport and distribution with the goal of making it easy for promoters and performers to leave each city they visit with a lasting, positive impact. They make sure all the meals go to community organizations comprised of at least 50% veterans and those that focus on feeding the homeless, hungry and food insecure.
“I just feel our industry, if given the education and given the opportunity, they are good people, they’ll do good,” says Brunner. She says there’s a need for their services now more than ever due to all of the coronavirus-related cancellations and adopting the practice now could also greatly impact events going forward.
“We’re going to bounce back from everything that’s going on right now,” she says, but those venues that build relationships with Musically Fed now can continue them in the future to make it “just an automatic part of their day.” She continues, foreseeing, “The catering department then involves Musically Fed with the venue and all the local organizations that need assistance could have food.”
While the organization has experience connecting shows with local missions or non-profits, it is hoping to establish a core set of volunteers in Los Angeles to assist with the growing demand from shows in the city. Musically Fed is run entirely by people who have worked throughout the music industry and Brunner says any volunteer contingency they set up in L.A. will need to reflect that same experience, stating, “We want the volunteers to be from within our industry because they understand it, they get it. We’re part of this community together.”