The trio donated thousands of free meals at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis.
It’s one thing to put your money where your mouth is. It’s another to put it where someone else’s mouth is.
That was the model for Berry Accius and his business partners Michael Harris and Willis Webster, all of Sacramento, at the dawn of coronavirus shelter-in-place orders, last spring. They decided to offer free pop up dinners on Thursday and Friday nights, to as many people as they could feed. I heard about the trio recently, and had to talk with the guys.
Accius told me that he and his friends weren’t prepared for the demand.
“The need was greater than what we assumed it would be,” Accius told me by phone. “We thought we were going to have to feed 200 people — no big deal. On the first day, over 1,000 people showed up. We were prepared to feed 300, and wound up having to turn hundreds of people away.”
“I felt some kinda way about that — we all did — and we decided that we weren’t going to let that happen again. We got our menu prepared to feed a lot more folks. We got some folks on board to do pre-orders, and we were able to start feeding the number of people who needed to be served. No one left without a meal.”
When Accius said “no one,” he meant it: 3 Black Chefs handed multiple meals to individuals, no questions asked.
“We didn’t care if someone was saving that food, or giving it to someone else,” Accius insisted. “Families of eight, families of 16: here’s your meals. We made it simple.”
Accius said that 3 Black Chefs didn’t just slap a hamburger and a bag of chips together for anyone picking up a free meal. The trio marshaled their formidable, collective expertise in a variety of styles — Louisiana, Caribbean, and American soul food — to feed their community.
Initially, the funds to do so came from their own pockets, but soon after they kicked things off, they received assistance and support from the most unusual of funding sources: some of the very people to whom they served the free meals!
“When people saw how real the program was, folks began supporting us in different ways,” Accius said. “We started a GoFundMe page, and people started galvanizing. We exceeded our GoFundMe goal of $17,500 by about $800 dollars. The community saw what we were doing and decided to back us.”
“And then, the most powerful thing was people picking up a meal, and feeling so grateful and appreciative that they would donate,” Accius continued. “So we wound up with at least a couple of hundred bucks at each event, that we used to pay our youth.”
“Our youth?” I wondered aloud about the connection between donating meals and “our youth.”
“We decided we had to give the youngsters something to do,” Accius said. “They didn’t have school, and the program became more than just a food program. We served food, but we supported other people, we served families, and it showed what we as a community could do when we see a need. We can come together and do some powerful things, and that’s what happened.”
“We made people feel human, not like they were getting a handout. We just served people because that’s what we’re all supposed to do.”