Louisville caterer still grappling with pandemic setbacks

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A Louisville-based caterer says his business is still facing pandemic setbacks and historically high inflation, which is fueling fears of closure.

What do you want to know

  • Louisville caterer still feeling pressure from pandemic setbacks
  • Michele Brink operates “The Children’s Pantry”, which caters to child care centers and dependent adults
  • Historic inflation levels have doubled the cost of some food items compared to a year ago
  • Brink started a GoFundMe to help save his business

At 8 a.m., this cozy commercial kitchen is running full blast and Michele Brink is leading the way.

“We serve about 500 meals a day from this kitchen and deliver everything before 11 a.m.,” Brink said.

Brink and her husband, Bob, have felt the same pain during the pandemic as any restaurant or caterer for the past two and a half years. The owners of “The Children’s Pantry” cater specifically to child care centers and residences for dependent adults.

The Brinks say school closures and other COVID-era closures and precautions have limited their business.

“Things are currently extremely difficult because of all the daycare and school closures. Child care centers are publicly funded, but we are at an impasse. There is nothing for us,” said Michele Brink.

The PPP loan they received last year was about $5,000. Brink said it helped but was used up within days.

In an effort to get back to business while daycares are closed, The Children’s Pantry has started door-to-door deliveries. But the effects of the pandemic and now the value of a month of historic inflation have once again brought Brink’s business to the brink.

Much food has doubled in price from a year ago, other food items are even more expensive, and because of Brink’s work, his catering business cannot use donations from food.

“Food is very expensive, and food comes and goes around here. We don’t have a lot of storage here, so we pretty much buy food every day,” Brink explained.

The Brinks launched their own GoFundMe to raise funds and keep their business afloat. Michele Brink has been in the food and hospitality industry all her working life. In fact, 20 years ago, she was a highly sought after and nationally recognized personal chef.

“I cooked every day. I would submit menus. I was so busy that I was doing two a day. They had national conferences, and I even taught a few,” Brink recalls.

However, there was a time in his culinary career where Brink changed him, bringing his love of food to a field that requires a big heart as much as cooking skills.

“The adults [clients] are mostly people with disabilities. quite traumatic [for] some of them, so it kinda tugs at your heart… They also want good food. They look forward to mealtimes,” Brink said.

It is because of her clients that she is willing to suffer personal loss as long as she feeds her soul.

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