Press Release From Teak Media and Mill Town:

Imagine coming home from a busy shift of treating patients with COVID 19 and other health issues at Berkshire Medical Center to healthy, nourishing meals ready to eat with your family - whether it’s Vietnamese chicken salad, roasted butternut squash, or grilled Napa cabbage and bok choy.

That is just what The Lantern chef Raymond Stalker and his team are doing by creating recipes and preparing 12-16 meal servings a week for Berkshire Health Systems employees, emergency childcare providers at 18 Degrees, Berkshire Family YMCA, and Gladys Allen Brigham Community Center, and staff at Williamstown Commons, a skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility. This act of kindness is called the “Fridge Filler Project,” aimed at giving hard-working frontline workers relief from meal planning, grocery shopping, and cooking as they confront the coronavirus pandemic on the job many hours a week.

“At the end of the day, what we’re trying to provide is convenience,” said Bjorn Somlo who owns and runs The Lantern in Pittsfield and Nudel in Lenox and is involved in developing the program. “We hope these meals are also healthy, delicious, and comforting during these challenging days.”

Kelly A. Marion, chief executive officer of the Gladys Allen Brigham Community Center, has about 15 employees taking part in the program this week, heartened that they do not have to worry about meals. “We are caring for the children whose parents are considered front line workers in the fight against COVID-19 from 7am to 5pm so by the time we get out of work, the supermarkets are bare of essential items and now we are adding not being able to get meat into the mix. It truly is a blessing and takes the stress off a bit with one less thing to have to worry about,” Marion said.

Mill Town, a private investment firm that is supporting community improvement efforts in real estate, businesses, cultural organizations, and outdoor recreational resources around Pittsfield, is underwriting this effort to help frontline staff. Their mission is extending to help during the pandemic. Financial support for the program has also been received from the Gilson Family Foundation.

Childcare workers at 18 Degrees wrote a letter to Mill Town to thank the organization and the participating chefs for the helpful meals. “After a long day, it is wonderful to go to the refrigerator and have something delicious to eat that doesn’t take an hour to prepare and then clean up. It has been fun to try new dishes from places that we have not eaten before,” the staff wrote.

“So many people are stepping up philanthropically around the Berkshires at this time of need,” said Tim Burke, Mill Town’s CEO. “We wanted to find a solution that would really add value to the lives of frontline workers.  We thought that planning and preparing nearly a week’s supply of healthy, tasty meals for hard-working frontline personnel would be an important pursuit.”

Based on the menu for the Fridge Filler Project, participants receive meals and snacks designed to provide lasting servings for individuals or a family, thus the impact lasts far beyond a single meal. Since the program’s inception in mid-April, the team has sourced local, organic produce from Marty’s Local and other vendors and created recipes for wholesome prepared foods such as roasted broccoli salad, spinach dip, and tuna salad. The meals are then supplemented with healthy snacks such as fresh fruit, yogurt, cheese, brittle bars, and other products. Since the program began, nearly 250 people have received packages.

“At a time like this, it’s easy to eat pizza and other quick meals, but it’s difficult to get healthier, vegetable-forward food,” Somlo said. And, right now, during the pandemic, he said, “It’s almost more important for all of us to eat more healthfully.”