This is a photo of people eating at the Florida Avenue Grill
Florida Avenue Grill

Florida Avenue Grill, a local restaurant, and the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless (WLCH) kicked off a meal-exchange program on February 25, 2015, called Meal-for-Meal Wednesdays. For every meal purchased in the restaurant on a Wednesday in 2015, Florida Avenue Grill will donate one meal to a person in need.

“We want to help Washingtonians in need…and just give back to the community who gave to the Grill,” said Toni Jones, media relations intern for Florida Avenue Grill.

Last year, the Grill and the Legal Clinic partnered in the Grill’s third annual “Goodwill at the Grill” Thanksgiving Community Breakfast, and served over 350 Washingtonians in need. Now, they are expanding “Goodwill at the Grill” all year long, Jones said.

Meal-for-Meal Wednesdays is the brain-child of Grill owner Imar Hutchins. He modeled the idea off of a popular campaign by Tom’s Shoes, a company that promises to provide a pair of shoes to someone in need for every pair a customer buys. However, Hutchins wanted to go local.

“We don’t have to go around the world to find people in need. We can go right across the street,” Hutchins said. “We wanted to galvanize public awareness around that campaign.”

A lawyer himself, Hutchins decided to partner with the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless because he wanted to raise awareness about the options many of his lower-income customers had.

“They weren’t even aware of some of the things that are available to help them free of charge,” he said.

The Legal Clinic set up a booth at the Grill’s Thanksgiving Community Breakfast last year and provided legal advice and gave information about legal resources available in the District. This year, Hutchins hopes to continue the trend and educate his neighbors about the legal options they have through the non-profit legal community.

For every meal pledged to a person in need, an employee marks it down on a chalkboard in the restaurant’s back office. Currently, the Grill is working on how to digitize that system, but soon the public can see how many meals have been pledged so far by visiting the Grill’s website, www.floridaavenuegrill.com, Hutchins said.

An Easter “Good Will at the Grill” event is scheduled for April 8 and will be the first of four Grill events to distribute food. April 8 is also six days after the District’s budget is announced, which is no coincidence.

“The budget will have just come out, and the clinic and other advocates for certain things will be there. It’s a chance to comment on what was in there and what wasn’t in there…[and] we can organize people to rally around whatever changes need to happen,” Hutchins said. “[The event] is after Easter, but mainly it’s for after the budget comes out.”