DAYTON, Ohio — With a team of chefs developing recipes and an assembly line of volunteers dishing up and packing meals, Miami Valley Meals has gone from a grassroots effort to feed its neighbors to a well-oiled machine serving thousands across the Dayton area every week.
Yet after a month and a half, its founders, chef Matt DeAngulo and Amanda DeLottelle, are still awaiting a milestone they hope will really get things cooking, a kitchen of their own.
The nonprofit began in March of 2020, days after the pandemic struck Dayton and restaurants had to close indefinitely. DeAngulo and DeLottelle, former coworkers at Citilites, began rounding up cooks to see if they could make a difference.
They started helping with House of Bread, help make meals to meet the then-growing demand for food assistance. Then they were asked to spend a few weeks helping at a St. Vincent DePaul shelter.
By the end of the year, Miami Valley Meals was its own entity with its own space, storing and delivering meals to partner organizations across the Dayton area.
“It’s extremely efficient,” DeAngulo said.
Every month, as MVM grows its space, he said the nonprofit is making more and more meals. There’s just one thing DeAngulo said that’s consistently slowing them down: their kitchen.
“Unfortunately, we’ve had to be able to take our products and load them up on vehicles and take them over to other locations that were licensed,” he said.
Miami Valley Meals has been working to build an in-house kitchen since the winter, hoping to bring all of their operations under one roof.
“The more that we get to create here today, the more we get to feed into our community,” DeAngulo said.
Like countless construction projects over the past year though, DeAngulo said the pandemic brought months of delays. Even after the build, he said the licensing process had its own delays.
By the end of September, DeAngulo got a sign the wait was nearly over.
“We are almost here,” he said. "We’re getting to the point where we’re getting our final inspections. Our electricity and gas and fire will all be inspected, and hopefully we’ll have our license and everything up and running by mid-October.”
Until then, DeLottelle said the chefs have had to get extra creative with what they can make, often borrowing kitchen time or cooking without a heat source.
Miami Valley Meals gets most of its ingredients through donations.
“We don’t always know what we’re gonna get and sometimes we have to supplement at times with other food,” she said.
DeLottelle said MVM has been using CARES Act money to buy pre-cooked canned goods, chefs can repurpose and improve with fresher ingredients in their own kitchen.
Once MVM gets its license, however, she expects the meals to come out quicker and taste even better.
“It will be much more efficient and free up time — more time that we can be working on meals for the community,” she said.
With all of their operations under one roof, MVM expects to cook up to 5,000-6,000 more meals every month.