Eat to Give: New Business Model Focuses on Giving BackDec 13, 2022 08:00AM ● By Andrea Stetson
Outside FK Your Diet (FK stands for Foster Kids) people can come and get free meals, food items, clothing, towels, furniture, appliances and more for free. Photos by Andrea Stetson
Across the bright neon colors inside the restaurant, "FK Your Diet," a slogan reads: “Eat to Give,” and that is exactly what owners Doug Miller and Amy Eldridge are aspiring to do. Since Hurricane Ian barreled into town, the couple has donated more than 170,000 meals. Three times a day they drive into an impoverished trailer park near their restaurant, just north of Estero, to hand out meals. Beside their establishment they set up tables brimming with food, clothing, towels, appliances, toys and more.
The most unusual part of their new mission is they took the prices off their menu. Customers now pay what they want into a donation box after munching on a hearty meal. Giving back isn’t new for Miller and Eldridge. They have been staunch supporters of foster kids. "FK" in the restaurant’s name stands for foster kids. Miller grew up in foster care and ever since opening his first local restaurant four years ago, he’s given back tremendously to these kids. But the scope of giving changed when he saw the hurricane’s devastation. As soon as the storm ended, he and his staff began cooking, even without electricity. Nearby restaurants started donating food for him to prepare. Bonefish gave him 10,000 pounds of shrimp. Zaxby’s donated chicken. Food Rescue US brings by food collected from other local businesses.
“We started being a round the clock community kitchen,” Miller described. “These people lost everything.”
At first he catered to everyone, since both rich and poor were left without power and appliances. Now it’s mostly the area’s poorest people that he helps. Melodee Nevers, 74, didn’t know what to do when her trailer was submerged. Miller found donated construction material and workers to fix her home.
“They give so much hope,” Nevers said. “They give people the chance to move forward. It is awesome. I am truly thankful that God has put these people in my life.”
Miller said hope is the biggest gift he wants to give.
“You can feed them and give them a blanket, but it is also showing up and giving them some love that is important,” he explained. “It is constant reminder to them that we didn’t forget them.”
Miller’s dream is to spread his new business model.
“People give what they want in the restaurant and we give back,” he said. “We ran up our credit cards. We ran through our savings. Can we make this socially sustaining taking the money we make in the restaurant and putting it back in the community? We need people to see what we are doing. Our customers have been rock solid. They have helped us out. We always envisioned FK being a community restaurant.”
Eldridge says it isn’t easy, but it’s slowly working. The combination of monetary donations at the restaurant and donations from the community are helping them currently give out 3,000 meals a day.
“People get to pay what the value is to them,” she said. “Most are donating.”
Aaron Maus is one of those customers. After eating a huge meal of biscuits and gravy, he drops his money in the donation box. But that’s not all.
“We brought some turkeys to them today and some first aid kits,” Maus said. “It is just very inspiring.
The couple works tirelessly overseeing all aspects of the donation operation, but say it’s so rewarding.
“Our dream is to take FK national,” Miller said. “We would like to have one of these in every community. We do believe the way we are trending, if we had some brain power, we could take this national and as a model of a community kitchen. We think it is just a great business model.”
“It is the biggest undertaking that we have ever done,” Eldridge concluded. “We came to this concept of let’s try to do a business and a community kitchen and do it by donation only and see what happens. It has been super interesting and super rewarding for sure.”