DENVER — It could easily be a time Brittney Ray spends sulking at home after losing her two jobs.

She was a chef for a private meal-prepping company as well as a bartender. But after a public health order suspended dine-in services at restaurants and closed bars, her services were no longer needed.

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“How am I making money? I’m not really,” Ray said. “That’s the honest answer.”

Ray said finding out she’d be out of work for at least two months was what she calls a “Wow, OK” and “What now?” moment.

Though she’s still trying to figure out what’s next for her, she’s discovered a way to continue her passion in the interim in a way that impacts hundreds of people affected by closures due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

While Ray is still using her culinary skills, her setting has drastically changed. She now prepares food in a commissary inside First Baptist Church across from the Colorado State Capitol. She’s combined her talents with other volunteers and some staff with Lost City, founded by its owner Michael Graham.

“To see [Ray] this morning was great,” Graham said. “It’s really great to have people who know what they’re doing in the kitchen. It’s important as we’re trying to get out a lot of meals in a short period of time.”

Lost City has teamed up with Denver Food Rescue, Bondadosa and Focus Points Family Resource Center to prep and serve hundreds of packaged meals to people around the area. This includes people who’ve been laid off from their jobs, elderly folks stuck at home and low-income families whose children are now at home because schools are temporarily closed.

“We decided that we needed – with the crisis going on right now – to put our action, our money and our time where our mouth is, basically,” Graham said. “That means, for us, helping the community figure out where their next meal is coming from.”

The coalition cooks and serves lunches and dinners with vegetarian and meat options.

“You get to keep your skills sharp, get to keep doing what you love and there’s only so much you can watch on Netflix,” Ray said.

After the food is cooked, Ray joins her team in an assembly line to put the meals together. They slide the trays of food from person to person since they’re all separated by six feet of distance, as recommended by the CDC.

It’s also worth noting the sanitary practices each person who’s part of the meal-prep process uses and how seriously they take it. This not only includes washing their hands regularly, but wiping down the tables where they prepare the food constantly. They even have timers for their sanitizer buckets to change out the water and soap.

Wednesday was the first day for this particular program. Graham said they delivered around 200 meals. However, that count is expected to rise to at least a thousand by the end of the week. Combined, that amount costs roughly around $5,000. And they expect even more people to sign up for their services.

“We’re going to try to lean into serving the community as long as we can possibly do that,” Graham said.

Brittney’s not sure where her next paycheck is coming from, but she says she knows it’s important to use her unexpected free time in a way that benefits a lot of people. 

That’s part of being a chef for her. Because even though her kitchen and surroundings have changed, there are people who need to be fed and she just so happens to have the skills to do it.

“It’s really exciting to see how many people in this industry are saying we’re going to make the best out of what we have right now,” Ray said.

To sign up to receive meals or to donate, visit www.denverdelivered.com.

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