Volunteers from Catering by Design in Mt. Airy drop off food for Project HOME, a non-profit that feeds the homeless and unemployed. (Photo courtesy of Catering by Design)

By Stacia Friedman

Before the pandemic hit, Catering By Design (CBD) at 18 W. Hortter St. in Mt. Airy was known for its gourmet cuisine, stunning floral arrangements and lavish décor for weddings, bar mitzvahs and corporate events. Now they are serving 8,000 meals per week to the city’s homeless and Covid-unemployed population.

“At first, every phone call was a cancellation,” said CBD owner Peter Loevy. “Over 60 events were called off. By the following week, our kitchen, which would normally be bustling with chefs, 23 full-time staff and 100 part-time, was reduced to the allowable 10 employees.”

On March 9, a call came that would change everything. “One of our wonderful clients, Independence Foundation, asked if we would be interested to help feed those in need,” said Loevy. Food distribution is just one of the many missions of the Independence Foundation, which also funds health, education, housing and arts initiatives for people who ordinarily do not have access to those services. 

“Working with two amazing Philadelphia nonprofits, Broad Street Ministry and Project HOME, we volunteered to produce the thousands of meals weekly at cost. We strategically spaced out, gloved and focused on our new mission.”

Broad Street Ministry, located at 315 S. Broad Street, practices what they call “radical hospitality.” Their motto is “There is always a seat at our table; there is enough for everyone.” On weekdays, they offer a free noontime lunch and social and health services, including dental screenings and mental health care.

The mission of Project HOME is to empower adults, children and families to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty. Later, CBD was asked to provide meals for Prevention Point Philadelphia, which promotes health and safety in communities affected by poverty and drug use.

Since then, it has been all gloved hands-on-deck. Each meal contains a sandwich, a cookie and a protein bowl. “For many people, since this will be their only meal each day, we are making sure the food is healthy and substantial.”   

Loevy and his staff spend five hours each morning preparing and packing the meals, and even his sales staff and bookkeeper are part of the assembly line. “We work with a farm co-op for fresh produce. Dietz and Watson has donated thousands of pounds of honey maple turkey. Herr’s donated thousands of bags of chips, and SHARE, an emergency food relief program, donated fresh fruit,” he said. “We drop off hundreds of grab-and-go meal bags on weekdays at City Hall, and on Saturdays and Sundays we take the  meals to six Project HOME sites.”

The non-profit organizations then deliver the meals to homeless people and those who live in low-income housing or shelters, including many who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic. “We have a long history with Project HOME and Broad Street Ministry,” said Loevy. “We have been delivering Thanksgiving dinners and donating meals for years.” As for the future, Loevy remains optimistic. “I survived the recession and hope to survive the pandemic. We are so thankful for the opportunity to help our city that we love so much.”

Loevy got his start working in area restaurants after attending the Restaurant School at Walnut Hill in West Philadelphia (formerly the Philadelphia Restaurant School). In 1991, he opened CBD in East Falls. They later moved to Conshohocken and in 2009 moved to their present location in Mt. Airy. 

If you have attended an event at the Michener Art Museum, the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, ONE North Broad or Bolingbroke Mansion, you experienced CBD’s artistry. They are the exclusive caterers at these venues.

CBD is one of three Philadelphia catering companies helping to feed the needy during this unprecedented crisis as part of a collaborative effort called Step Up to the Plate. Actor Kevin Bacon, who grew up in Center City, posted a call for contributions on Facebook: “Philadelphians are stepping up to the plate to feed and care for people experiencing food insecurity and homelessness during the pandemic. Please join me in supporting their important work.”  Their goal is raise $100,000. So far, they have raised $17,974.

To make a donation, visit https://e.givesmart.com/events/hbE/.

  • ood distribution
  • affordable housing and access to shelter by homeless persons

equate food and food distribution

  • affordable housing and access to shelter by homeless persons