[Watch] How UGK Community First Served 275,000 Meals Since COVID Started

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Interview Transcript:

Micheal Sparks: Not really realizing what we were doing was more experiential experience dining more than a popup. Because a lot of people say, oh, we remember that popup that goes, and we’re really not a popup and we’re not caterers for sure, for our for-profit. We’re we give folks an experience, we tell a story with our meals, and that story goes with who the farmers are, how it’s delivered

Kate Houck: Who our chefs are.

Micheal Sparks: Mm-hmm. And how it’s a whole experience, which makes us a little different and has really had really prepared us more than we knew for UGK Community first because by that time we knew all the vendors. We knew we had gotten the attention of a lot of major corporations that really were interested in what we were doing

Kate Houck: Well. And at the same time, I described us as Underground Kitchen, as a traveling-like food carnival. We were rolling to town, set up the tent, do our thing. In that respect, we were a pop-up but went from city to city. So we were really adept at pivoting and figuring out how to do stuff on the fly because it never mattered how much we planned for anything. Something always went wrong. We’d get to a city and something would go wrong. Right. And we would have to figure it out. And so it wasn’t anything in our heads when Covid came and we said we need to, you know, start getting food out to people we just did. Cuz that’s what you do.

Micheal Sparks: Right. That’s what we do. And not in that volume. The first week I think we served 150 meals.

Kate Houck: 175 Meals.

Micheal Sparks: And then, you know, since then, like again, like I said, 275,000, and I still think about that today and I think Kate does too. And I don’t know how we do it.

Kate Houck: Nope.

Micheal Sparks: Quality, beautiful. Wholesome as close to free range organic food – for free.

Kate Houck: Yeah. And people have asked us that before and we said if we stopped long enough to think about it, we would wait, wait, quit. It’s like when I learned to play the piano, once I realized both hands were going at the same time, I’d screw it all up because I had to like go into that zen spot. That’s kind of where, where we went at the beginning of Covid.

Micheal Sparks: And it was just really, and I, I, Kate and I delivered the food the first week ourselves to 175 houses and people around, all around Virginia. I can’t even tell you how many miles we put on our cars. And, but Kate and I came back and ended up with that Friday glass of wine and we’re like, dude, did you see this? And did you see that? And did you see this? And like, it was just, and that was from every spectrum because, in the beginning, it wasn’t just people with disparities, but it was older people in Windsor Farms who needed food, who were afraid to go out. It was the whole spectrum of, Virginia and Greater Richmond area. And Kate looked at me and she says, you know, we can’t stop this.

Kate Houck: And then well, as you know, we talk a lot, we talk to everybody. . Yeah. That we dropped soups off to as much as we could, you know, from our car to their porch. Or I had a couple of people who were shut in for medical reasons. And one woman would hold eight cats up one at a time and we’d wave and, and like scream through the windows at each other.

Will Melton: The cats appreciated that. I’m sure.

Kate Houck: I’m sure they did. Yeah. They had their cat trees in the window. I mean, but we got to know everybody those first couple weeks when we were doing deliveries and the stories that you’d hear and the outpouring of just thanks for remembering we’re out here was profound. It really hit both of us deeply. And we said we can’t, we don’t know what we’re doing, but we can’t stop doing it. We gotta figure out pretty quickly what we’re doing. That’s right.


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