ST. GEORGE — When people look back at the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, one of their first memories will likely be of the empty shelves. No toilet paper. No flour. No rice.
A restaurant owner in Ivins City has seen the same empty shelves and has decided to help, providing food supplies for residents in town who ask.
Troy Dennett, owner of The IceBox & Round About Grill in Ivins, is including the requests of residents in his two weekly shipments.
“I just felt like people are struggling looking for a food item, and they come home without it,” Dennett said. “We’re not trying to take over for the supermarket. We just want to help.”
Each Monday and Thursday, a semitractor-trailer pulls up to the Icebox. Along with the usual supplies for the restaurant, which is continuing to operate through its drive-through and deliveries, are food supplies requested by neighbors through the restaurant’s Facebook page or through calls and texts directly to Dennett.
However, it’s just food supplies; no one seems to have an answer for the toilet paper issue.
Dennett has been doing this since March 19, and apparently he was on to a good idea.
On Tuesday, the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food officially gave clearance for restaurants in the state to repackage and resell raw and prepackaged foods in their inventories to the public through April 30.
“During these unprecedented times it is necessary to take steps that provide retailers an opportunity to remain viable and ensure an alternate source for the public to obtain food necessities,” Kelly Pehrson, deputy commissioner of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, said in a statement.
That’s not exactly what Dennett has been doing. What he has been giving out has never been in his inventory. He’s just adding requests to the shipments he receives. All of it is sorted and then provided curbside to those who request it. He has also been delivering some items – especially to the elderly.
One request he had was for a woman who was just looking for chicken. She told Dennett her husband had been to five different markets with no luck.
It wasn’t any skin off his back for Dennett to add some extra poultry to one of his weekly shipments.
“There shouldn’t be any families in need,” he said. “Why should they go without it?”
Dennett charges the same price for the goods as he pays. No more, no less. That runs around $18.50 for 50 pounds of flour, $60 for 50 pounds of rice and $40 for 20 pounds of chicken patties, as examples.
With campuses closed and kids doing their schooling from home, those chicken patties are proving to be one of the more popular items, including at Dennett’s own household.
“I have a lot of kids at home, and they love a breaded chicken sandwich,” he said.
Dennett said other popular items include staples like rice, flour and baking powder.
He is seeing around nine orders a week from those in the community, mostly through word of mouth.
As for the restaurant, it has had to make adjustments to being solely a drive-through and takeout establishment during the COVID-19 pandemic. That has included making cuts to staff and focusing on those needing the work the most.
“I’m trying to focus on employees who have bills. We have teenage high school kids and had to do a little cutting there,” said Dennett, who added he hopes to be back at full strength and being solely a restaurant when the pandemic is over. “This is a short-term deal.”
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