The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly changed the world we live in. And sometimes, challenges turn into wonderful gifts we could never expect.
Such is the case with the forty 10-liter cubes of extra virgin olive oil that recently found its way into the hands of Jeni Wheeler. Jeni runs Faith Family Kitchen, and is also one of the driving forces behind the Cape Cod Culinary Incubator, who, along with several community partners created the Cape Cod Family Table Collaborative. Both organizations serve
meals to individuals and families in need. And what's one commodity they never expected to get – especially in this quantity? You guessed it, olive oil.
The story of how this olive oil got from South America to Hyannis is a great one. Enter Dave and Catherine Ferraresi of Gustare Oils & Vinegars, which offers high quality oils and vinegars both online and in its European-style tasting room on Main Street in Chatham. One of Gustare's main suppliers simply had too much olive oil on hand after their crush in May and June. Another trickle down effect of COVID – with so many restaurants and specialty shops closing or drastically reducing service, the demand simply wasn't there. So they asked Dave and Catherine if they might be able to help.
Of course. Dave and Catherine agreed to buy the oil from their wholesaler, not to sell it themselves, but to pay it forward in some way. Gustare gives 10% of its sales each year to support human services and food initiatives, much of which is directed to programs through the Cape and Islands United Way. So the next call was to President and CEO Mark Skala, with this simple question posed from Dave: "Do you know anyone who could put 400 liters of olive oil to good use?"
Getting this oil means everything. Quality oil is not only hard come by for programs like mine, it’s very expensive. This means I’m going to be able to make fresh dressings and fresh marinades – and pass on the purity of a first press olive oil to the people we are feeding. – Jeni Wheeler
Mark's answer was a resounding yes, and the whole transaction is such a wonderful example of what a community can accomplish when working together.
As both a convener and advocate for many wonderful human service programs in our community, the Cape and Islands United Way is in a perfect position to make these connections. – Mark Skala
To put this olive oil donation in perspective, 400 liters of oil of this quality would retail for about $10,000. And the retail value is only part of it. Extra virgin olive oil has many health benefits – it is rich in polyphenols, antioxidants and monounsaturated fatty acids (one of the healthy fats). As Dave says, "there's a reason the Sicilians call it liquid gold!"
And perhaps even more heartwarming (not to mention heart healthy) than the monetary value of this donation is what it does for families in our community at a time when we all could use some support. We know there can be a stigma around needing assistance of any sort, especially when it comes to food security issues. Jeni and the amazing team around her all believe in breaking down that stigma, and part of doing that is understanding that all food is not created equal. Everyone deserves to have enough to eat, and to also have it be as nutritious – and delicious as possible.
The olive oil Dave and Catherine have gifted us is the epitome of our motto: “love is our secret ingredient!” – Jeni
Part of the Cape Cod Family Table Collaborative team, including founding members Chef Joe Ellia of the ACF and Executive Chef at The West End, Harry Henry, Board President, Cape Cod Culinary Incubator, and Jeni Wheeler, along with Mark Skala of the Cape and Islands United Way.