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Restaurant Food Drive Yields Meals for the Homeless and Needy

Each year in the run-up to the Thanksgiving holiday, the Chicago-based chain of restaurants called "Potbelly" holds an unusual food drive. On a normal day, the restaurant is busy serving food -- but on this one day it was accepting food as well.

Earlier this month this Potbelly restaurant -- one of more than a hundred in the U.S. -- participated in a one-day food drive. Throughout the Washington area, and in nine other U.S. states, customers who showed up with at least three nonperishable items got a free sandwich in return. The canned good were then sent on to benefit local food banks.

"Last year we collected 42,000 pounds of food from 65 restaurants,” said Brian Lee, the regional manager for Potbelly. “This year we are going to have a hundred restaurants and our goal is to collect 100,000 pounds of food."

"This year it's a particularly important drive for us because of hurricane Katrina has depleted the food banks more than normal, as we are heading into the holiday season," he said.

The custom of giving food for the needy in advance of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays in the U.S. has drawn the support of many businesses in recent years. Food collected by Potbelly in the Washington area has been donated to the Capital Area Food Bank.

The man responsible for seeing that it all runs smoothly is Food Resources Coordinator is Mark Mitchell. "So it's great the Potbelly is getting out into the community, helping out, becoming a partner with the Capitol Area Food Bank, and we are getting the products that we need."

Potbelly says it plans to further expand its efforts next year.