WASHINGTON, DC — Want to deep fry your Thanksgiving turkey but don’t want to risk setting your house on fire? Then haul your turkey down to Nationals Park in D.C. Thursday for the 12th annual Turkey Fry, sponsored by the Washington Nationals and Medium Rare restaurants.

Fryers will be set up at the Center Field Concourse adjacent to the C Garage from early in the morning to 3 p.m. While there is no charge for frying a turkey, Medium Rare is encouraging participants to donate $25 per bird to the Feed the Fridge initiative started by restaurant owner Marc Bucher.

“I’ve always opened up every Medium Rare on Thanksgiving and we’ve deep fried people’s turkeys for free for them for a decade,” Bucher said. “Hundreds of people on Thanksgiving show up to get turkey cooked by us for them.”

Bucher recently launched Feed the Fridge to provide free and fresh meals across the metro D.C. region to students and others facing food insecurity. Every morning, fresh meals are placed in refrigerators located at D.C. area community centers. As of Nov. 18, more than 1,500 meals have been distributed.

The effort is funded by We Care, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization created by Bucher, whose philanthropy was inspired by Chef Jose Andre and D.C. Central Kitchen founder Robert Egger.

“We’ve always given back to the communities that support us,” Bucher said. “We’re always the first restaurant that always says yes, whenever anyone calls us for a donated gift card. We’ve always done that. But I just felt in this new world, that actions spoke louder than words or promises. And I had to do something to lead and nobody else was stepping up.”

Feeding the city’s hungry has been something Bucher has been doing since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in March. He knew that his father, who had passed away recently at the age of 84, would’ve been unable to cope with being isolated because of the pandemic. He didn’t have a smartphone and didn’t know how to place a food delivery order or purchase groceries online.

“So I put a tweet out and I said, “If anyone knows anyone over the age of 70 who is isolating, we’ll bring them a hot steak dinner,'” Bucher said. “Well, 10,000 plus meals later, we delivered a lot of steak dinners to a lot of people who needed it.”

When schools let out in June, social service agencies from D.C. and Montgomery County, Maryland reached out to Bucher, asking for help in feeding students and their families who typically obtained food from school cafeterias, but which were closed due to the pandemic.

“We had the unique ability of being able to put food in the back of an Uber and deliver it to any address we wanted to get to, and a social service agency couldn’t quite do that,” Bucher said. “So we were feeding a lot of families and a lot of kids.”

Feed the Fridge began as an expansion on those early efforts to alleviate food insecurity in the District, as students started heading back to school

“My wife and I are watching CBS Sunday Morning, and we saw a woman in LA that had a program where she was putting refrigerators in florist shops, filling them with water and fresh fruit for LA’s homeless population,” be said. “And I said, You know what? I can do this for school lunches.”

Feed the Fridge is delivering 5,000 meals a week to refrigerators at 10 D.C. recreation centers. (Feed the Fridge)
Feed the Fridge is delivering 5,000 meals a week to refrigerators at 10 D.C. recreation centers. (Feed the Fridge)

The Feed the Fridge initiative launched earlier this month by distributing 5,000 meals to refrigerators at 10 D.C. Parks and Recreation Centers.

“We are growing from D.C. parks to D.C. public schools, then we’re going to go to D.C. Fire and EMS houses in the neighborhoods we don’t serve,” Bucher said, adding that they have a preliminary agreement with Montgomery County to bring the program there. “These are all dignified meals. They’re the same meals that are available in restaurants. No bologna sandwiches, no rice and beans. We’re doing pastas. We’re doing steak salads. We’re doing chicken tacos, beef tacos, pork tacos. We’re doing a Peruvian chicken.”

Bucher also wants to start offering companion cooking classes on Zoom to help the students learn how to cook these types of meals.

“Our goal is to one day a week offer meal kits where the kids can go now and make these meals for their families,” he said. “So, the old adage, ‘You can give a man a fish or teach them how to fish.’ We’re trying to do both, because a lot of these kids haven’t really had the experience of this kind of food. So it’s neat to broaden their horizons a little bit and also have them start cooking for the families.”

Those interested in supporting Feed the Fridge’s efforts can make donations on its GoFundMe page.

Patch has partnered with Feeding America to help raise awareness on behalf of the millions of Americans facing hunger. Feeding America, which supports 200 food banks across the country, estimates that in 2020, more than 50 million Americans will not have enough nutritious food to eat due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. This is a Patch social good project; Feeding America receives 100 percent of donations. Find out how you can donate in your community or find a food pantry near you.

This article originally appeared on the Washington DC Patch

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