FORT MYERS

Since opening FK Your Diet in Fort Myers in 2018, founders Amy Eldridge and Doug Miller have been known for reaching out to the entire Southwest Florida community.

Miller grew up as a foster child until he checked out at age 18. FK, short for Foster Kids, was opened as a way for him to continue his passion for cooking and giving back to the community. Eldridge and Miller also use their space to help others get back on track.

“All our employees are either disabled, or have mental illness, or are ex-criminals, or need a second, third, fourth, fifth chance. We hired homeless people,” Eldridge said. “We want to make our community better and make them better people so that when they move on, they have a set of skills to take with them.”

FK Your Diet has a constant willingness to distribute free meals to the homeless, as many employees have been part of the foster system. At the same time, they give most of their income to local pupils. Eldridge and Miller said they always do the best they can during tough times in Southwest Florida.

“Whenever there’s been a crisis in our community, or COVID, and obviously Hurricane Ian, we like to feed people, we want to make sure bellies are full because these are stressful times for everybody,” Eldridge said.

Even though Hurricane Yang knocked out the restaurant’s power, cooling and water supply, the circumstances did not deter the FK Your Diet team from doing their best to be a pillar of support for the devastated area. Since the first day after the hurricane, the team has been giving out about 5,000 meals a day.

It costs the restaurant about $10,000 a day to make a daily trip to the grocery store to get food and pay employees, Miller said. However, they received a lot of support from surrounding organizations in terms of donations.

“Part of our mission is to engage our customers, and we’ve really been working on that for the last four years that we’ve been open, and they really love it,” Eldridge said. “We can call people and they come running to help us any time we need it. With donations, or money, or soda, water, whatever, it’s been incredible.”

The restaurant received a donation of generators for lighting and cooling so they can successfully serve the community, and continues to receive donations of basic necessities and toiletries for those who come to grab a bite.

FK Your Diet did not stay home to distribute food. Employees went to the most affected areas to provide food to those who had not had a warm meal for several days.

“We focused on areas that some people might forget or just don’t know about,” Eldridge said. “There’s a trailer park down the road and we bring them food a couple of times a day.”

The appreciative response from residents is what makes all the hard work worth it for Hayden Eldridge. He spent his days visiting communities that had lost so much and providing them with water, supplies and food.

“Just doing it was a blessing, being able to give people whatever we could, especially water,” Hayden Eldridge said. “I feel like I’m thriving right now doing community service and what we can do. I’ve never felt that.’

The staff at FK Your Diet feel blessed to have the opportunity to thank those who saw the worst of Hurricane Ian.

Mitchell Kirschbaum Worked at FK Your Diet for almost three years and is now an employee of Sunrise, Florida. After Hurricane Ian made landfall in Southwest Florida, money was raised on the East Coast to get more food to Fort Myers. He came to the Gulf Coast yesterday to help Miller and Eldridge pack food and move things into their cars.

“I have never worked a day in my life. I love what I do,” said Kirschbaum. “It’s something I’ve always enjoyed, I just give back to everyone where I can.”

Eldridge and Miller are grateful to their employees for coping with the unprecedented circumstances as the business seems to operate around the clock. “It’s very hot and very stressful because everything is very fluid,” Eldridge said, “[The employees] everyone has been phenomenal because a lot of them have been injured and they’re in a difficult situation themselves and they still come to work every day.”

FK Your Diet plans to continue giving back to Southwest Florida as much as they can.

“As long as we have food, we’re going to continue to prepare and distribute it, because even though we’re a week into it, there are still so many people in our community who are struggling,” Eldridge said. “So we’re doing the best we can.”

For more news on the recovery of Southwest Florida’s business community after Hurricane Ian, visit gulfshorebusiness.com