A gift certificate program conceived during the pandemic to benefit families and local restaurants and administered by the Fountain Hills Community Foundation is still going strong, thanks to uncertain economic times and the generosity of the Fountain Hills community.

Jeannie and Steve Ryan came up with the idea for One Meal at a Time during the pandemic, when restaurants were forced to rely on their carryout business and the Fountain Hills Unified School District (FHUSD) was providing take-home meals for students. Using their own money, the Ryans purchased 100 certificates for 14-inch cheese pizzas from EuroPizza Café and gave them to Extended Hands Food Bank and the FHUSD for distribution.

“The town is quite phenomenal when it comes to volunteering,” Jeannie said. “They’ve supported a teeny-tiny idea and helped it blossom into something that truly makes a difference. When the Community Foundation agreed to collect donations as tax deductible, it really increased the amount of donations.”
To-date, more than $15,000 worth of certificates have been purchased; $12,000 of them have been redeemed.

Jeannie believes the One Meal at a Time program is especially important today because families are struggling with the cost of groceries and gas, and local restaurants may not have recovered from financial hardships caused by the pandemic.

“Restaurants aren’t paid for the certificates until they are redeemed so we aren’t paying in advance for something that doesn’t get used. It must still make a difference to them and their bottom line because they continue to participate,” she said. “They told me they get new customers that didn’t even know their restaurant existed.”

Currently, EuroPizza Café and Senor Taco are the only two restaurants in the program. Other restaurant owners who would like to become involved should call Jeannie at 480-747-3564.