Cooking for a Cause - The Love of Grub Gives Back
Update 1/29/24: Doughliciously Dangerous has also donated freshly baked crumb cakes to the warming center.
Cliftonites know that if they want delicious food served with “a side of peace and love,” The Love of Grub on Van Houten Avenue is the place to go. Regulars appreciate that owner and head chef Tracey Travers is so much more than another restauranteur. In the five years that she’s been open, Tracey has cemented herself as an important part of the community, giving back whenever she can. During the Covid pandemic, The Love of Grub provided an important service, making certain grocery staples available for purchase for those who couldn’t - or didn’t want to - venture into grocery stores. Tracey has participated in many fundraising events for St. Peter’s Haven, including their holiday toy drive.
These days, Tracey has been busy cooking well beyond her menu. Pam, who runs St. Peter’s Haven, introduced Tracey to Nathaniel King, a social worker with Clifton’s Health Department who runs the Code Blue warming center and a wonderful partnership was formed. The warming center is funded by the county and is only approved for operation when the temperatures reach 32 degrees or lower. Located in the recreation center on Main Avenue, the only cooking that they can do on-site is via a microwave and a toaster, so the options for meal times were limited. Tracey knew that she had to do better by the people there, who were already dealing with so much trauma from living on the streets.
Initially receiving donated food from St. Peter’s Haven, Tracey started cooking for the clients who were staying at the warming center. She’d work with whatever the Haven could spare, turning random ingredients into trays full of delicious and nutritious homemade meals, like bratwurst and greens, sauerkraut, stuffed peppers, and hearty soups. The Haven feeds approximately 1,500 Cliftonites every week and Tracey didn’t want to take too much from their pantry. This meant that she didn’t always have everything that she needed to feed the 15-20 clients at the warming center. She didn’t let that stop her, though.
Reaching out to a few other local restaurants, Tracey was able to get donations of food from Happy Belly and IHOP. Agamies Deli has also committed to helping. Because of her strong ties to the community, she was also successful at securing donations from individuals who just wanted to help. Paula LoBue worked with Home Depot to secure a freezer chest where Tracey could store donated items and keep them separate from the restaurant’s inventory. A connection to someone who works in food photography has enabled Tracey to “rescue” pounds of food that would otherwise have been discarded after their photo shoots.
“Everyone deserves kindness,” Tracey said, as she talked about the inner lift she gets from being able to help out this way. The clients at the warming center look forward to her arrival each day, knowing that she’ll be bringing delicious, homemade meals…something the unhoused get far too little of. Tracey said that since she started cooking for the center, the clients there have seemed happier and friendlier with each other. She credits being well-nourished and treated with respect and kindness for this positive change.
Despite the many donations she’s received already, the need for more remains high with many weeks of winter weather ahead.
There are three ways you can help:
- If you own, work in, or have ties to a local restaurant, ask them to commit to contributing trays of food. They should contact Tracey to coordinate.
- Donate food! Tracey needs raw ingredients that she can cook with - dry goods like flour, rice, beans, and cheese, produce (fresh, frozen, or even canned), and proteins (whole chickens, cuts of beef or pork, sausage).
- Donate money so that Tracey can buy the needed ingredients.
Shelters and food pantries are often overwhelmed with offers from volunteers on Thanksgiving but struggle to make ends meet the rest of the year. Anyone can make a positive difference for the unhoused individuals who take shelter in the warming center. If you would like to join Tracey in her mission to ensure that these folks continue to get whole, nutrient-rich foods while they’re sheltered, please reach out to her at the store: (973) 928-0080 or email: email@example.com.
Because Code Blue is only activated once temperatures reach 32 degrees or lower, there are many very cold days and nights when the unhoused are forced to be on the streets. In the summer, scorching heat is another danger to people without shelter. Tracey urged concerned residents to contact the Passaic County Commissioners and implore them to establish a shelter in Clifton that would operate 365 days a year. Contact information for each commissioner is available when you follow the link and click on individual photos.
If you are in need of shelter, call 2-1-1 to find out if a Code Blue has been activated and where the nearest open centers are. You can also call the Clifton Police non-emergency number: (973) 470-5900.
Taking care of others and giving back is Tracey’s mission. You can help.