Inspire Dayton: This chef lost his job. Now he feeds thousands in need in the Dayton area

Chef Matt DeAngulo earlier this year help found Miami Valley Meals, which prepares thousands of meals each week for those in need. CONTRIBUTED
Chef Matt DeAngulo earlier this year help found Miami Valley Meals, which prepares thousands of meals each week for those in need. CONTRIBUTED

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

DAYTON – Chef Matt DeAngulo was jobless after the COVID-19 shutdown in March. But it didn’t stop him and former co-workers from continuing to feed people — seemingly a growing number each week.

DeAngulo says what started with making 120 meals a day in early April now has turned into an organization providing more than 4,000 a week to families in need.

DeAngulo is director of culinary operations for Miami Valley Meals, a group he co-founded that’s part of a coalition helping to feed many who became unemployed or have struggled in the coronavirus pandemic.

For Thanksgiving, he says, the organization provided 10,000 meals, 6,000 of which were distributed at the University of Dayton Arena and Trotwood-Madison High School.

During this challenging year, people across the Dayton region have persevered. Throughout December, the Dayton Daily News will tell the stories of individuals who have inspired others.

Miami Valley Meals last month prepared about 6,000 meals for Thanksgiving that were distributed at the University of Dayton Arena and Trotwood-Madison High School. MARSHALL GORBY/STAFF
Miami Valley Meals last month prepared about 6,000 meals for Thanksgiving that were distributed at the University of Dayton Arena and Trotwood-Madison High School. MARSHALL GORBY/STAFF

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“I certainly appreciate Matt and his team looking at how best they could prepare meals for people who need them with the COVID crisis and with a lot of their folks losing their employment,” said Melodie Bennett, executive director of the House of Bread in Dayton.

While they serve different clienteles, it was in the House of Bread’s kitchen where Miami Valley Meals started to evolve, officials said.

An uncertain time

The 48-year-old DeAngulo, who has spent decades as a restaurateur and consultant, in January lost his executive chef’s job at Citilites inside the Schuster Performing Arts Center when management closed to revamp operations.

The Union resident says he then became a consultant and executive chef at another restaurant, but just days later that, too, shuttered with the COVID-19 outbreak.

“It was already difficult in a sense to be looking for a job and then find one — and then be right back out of work,” DeAngulo said. “There was uncertainty at that time. We didn’t understand what was going to happen. We didn’t have the CARES Act yet. Nobody knew what the (relief) packages were going to be or if we were going to have any.”

Hayley Zimbric, a sophomore at Miami University placed turkey dinners into vehicles at the University of Dayton Arena last month as Miami Valley Meals prepared about 6,000 holiday meals to be given out at the arena and Trotwood-Madison High School. MARSHALL GORBY/STAFF
Hayley Zimbric, a sophomore at Miami University placed turkey dinners into vehicles at the University of Dayton Arena last month as Miami Valley Meals prepared about 6,000 holiday meals to be given out at the arena and Trotwood-Madison High School. MARSHALL GORBY/STAFF

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DeAngulo said he and former co-workers — described as “very community-oriented individuals” — said “let’s just see who needs our assistance. And Miami Valley Meals kind of grew out of that idea.

“We didn’t know exactly what we were going to be doing. We just knew we were going to be doing something that works with food,” he added.

“Our skills and our ability to use ingredients in multiple ways was really the most key element.”

It all came together “really quickly,” DeAngulo said.

A headquarters

Miami Valley Meals is funded by the multi-county nonprofit corporation Miami Valley Community Action Partnership using CARES Act money, officials said.

MVM cooks at Lindy’s Bakery at Daybreak five days a week, working with coalition members like The Foodbank Inc., East End Community Services, the Hall Hunger Initiative and St. Vincent de Paul to distribute meals. Groups seeking meals order them and pick them up.

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All prepared meals are either thawed or frozen, and include an entrée, a side, a dessert and roll, according to MVM’s website.

Now Miami Valley Meals is headquartered at 428 S. Edwin C. Moses, where a sign has been ordered. DeAngulo said it serves three functions:

• It keeps out-of-work food service industry people working “so they don’t have to end up in the lines we’re serving.”

• It turns food that may go bad or become outdated into meals.

• It helps people in need of meals.

Building a kitchen

Coalition organizations meet weekly to determine ways for Miami Valley Meals to expand its outreach, DeAngulo said.

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MVM is “unique in itself because we don’t service individuals out on the streets. We service those who are serving our community,” he said.

As Christmas approaches, DeAngulo said the organization isn’t planning to prepare the extra load of meals it did for Thanksgiving.

Instead, it is having a kitchen built at the Edwin C. Moses site, where it is helping distribute between 4,000 and 4,500 meals a week, he said.

Next year, DeAngulo would like to see Miami Valley Meals become more efficient “and to reach more people as we grow.”

“We just want to stay sustainable,” he said. “We need to find viability for our organization and keep giving that food back out. We still need those donations and those things that help prop up what we’re doing. But I think the sky is the limit as long as we have the resources.”

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Inspire Dayton

Throughout the month of December, the Dayton Daily News will tell the stories of people who have persevered and inspired others during this challenging year. Read all the stories at DaytonDailyNews.com/inspire-dayton. Tell us who inspired you in 2020 by emailing jordan.laird@coxinc.com.

COALITION MEMBERS

•Miami Valley Meals

•Miami Valley Community Action Partnership

•The Foodbank, Inc.

•Lindy’s Bakery at Daybreak

•Declare

•East End Community Services

•Hall Hunger Initiative

•Life Enrichment Center

•Montgomery County Food Equity Coalition

•St. Vincent de Paul Dayton

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