Since FK Your Diet opened in Fort Myers in 2018, founders Amy Eldridge and Doug Miller have been known for lending a helping hand throughout the Southwest Florida community.
Miller grew up as a foster child until he aged out of the system at 18. FK, an abbreviation for Foster Kids, was opened as a way for him to pursue his passion for cooking and giving back to the community. Eldridge and Miller also use their space helping others get back on track.
“All of our employees are either disabled, have mental illness, are ex-felons, or need second, third, fourth, fifth chances. We hired homeless people,” Eldridge said. “We want to make our community better and make them better people so that when they move on, they have a skill set to take with them.”
FK Your Diet has a constant willingness to give out free meals to the homeless, as many employees were part of the foster system. Along with that, they give most of their revenue to local foster children. Eldridge and Miller said they always do anything they can during rough times in Southwest Florida.
“Every time we’ve had a crisis in our community, or COVID, and obviously Hurricane Ian, we like to feed people, we want to make sure bellies are full as its stressful times for everybody,” Eldridge said.
Despite Hurricane Ian causing a loss of power, refrigeration and water within the restaurant, the circumstances did not scare off the team at FK Your Diet from doing all they can to be a pillar of support for the devasted area. Since the first day after the hurricane, the team has been giving out about 5,000 meals a day.
Going to the grocery store daily for supplies and paying employees is costing approximately $10,000 a day for the restaurant, Miller said. However, they’ve received great support from surrounding organizations in terms of donations.
“Part of our mission here is to get our customers involved, and we’ve really worked at that the past four years we’ve been open, and they absolutely love it,” Eldridge said. “We can call people and they run to our rescue any time that we need it. With donations, either monetary or soda, water, anything it has been unbelievable.”
The restaurant received donated generators for light and refrigeration so they could successfully serve the community and is still receiving donations of necessities and toiletries for those who come in for a bite to eat.
FK Your Diet has not stayed at home base to give out their meals. Employees have been driving out to the hardest hit areas to provide food to those who may not had have a warm meal in days.
“We’ve been focusing on the areas that maybe some people forget or just don’t know about,” Eldridge said. “There’s a trailer park down the road and we’ve been taking them meals a couple times a day.”
The grateful reactions of the residents are what makes all the hard work worth it for Hayden Eldridge. He has spent his days visiting communities that have lost so much and providing them with water, supplies and food.
“Just doing this has been a blessing, being able to give people whatever we can, water especially,” Hayden Eldridge said. “I feel like I’m thriving right now doing community service and what we can do. I’ve never experienced this.”
The employees at FK Your Diet feel blessed for the opportunity to give back to those who have seen the worst of Hurricane Ian.
Mitchell Kirschbaum has worked for FK Your Diet for close to three years and is now an employee at the Sunrise, Fla. location. Once Hurricane Ian hit Southwest Florida, the east coast location was collecting money to get more food to Fort Myers. He came to the Gulf Coast yesterday to help Miller and Eldridge with packaging food and carrying items to cars.
“I haven’t worked a day in my life. I love what I do,” Kirschbaum said. “This is something that I’ve always been fond of, just giving back to anyone anywhere I can.”
Eldridge and Miller are grateful for their staff pushing through the unprecedented circumstances as the business seemingly works around the clock. “It’s super-hot and super stressful because everything’s very fluid,” Eldridge said, “[The employees] have all been phenomenal because a lot of them have had damage and they’re in dire straits themselves and they’re still coming into work every day.”
FK Your Diet plans to continue giving back to Southwest Florida as much as it is able.
“As long as we have food, we’re going to keep cooking it and giving it out because even though now we’re a week out, there’s so many people that are still in dire straits in our community,” Eldridge said. “So, we’re doing the best we can.”
For more news on the Southwest Florida business community’s recovery from Hurricane Ian visit gulfshorebusiness.com