Many restaurants are partnering to keep people in need fed right now, even the fast-casual ones. An area Blaze Pizza franchise owner has partnered with a new nonprofit to provide meals for the Bakersfield Homeless Center.

Gift A Plate allows people to make donations to fund meals for those in need. Restaurant partners in participating cities prepare meals for local nonprofits, shelters or food banks.

The program started in three major markets — New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles — as well as Bakersfield. To date, it has raised $32,827 from 178 donations, providing more than 2,700 meals in its test markets.

Martha Olmos, a partner in DAMM Fine Pizza, which owns 22 Blaze Pizza locations in the Central Valley, including the three in Bakersfield, said she wanted to give back to the community.

"We’re from the area, born and raised in the Central Valley," said Olmos, who operates out of Visalia.

Meals are valued at $12, with donation options ranging from one ($12) to 100 meals ($1,200) as well as a custom donation field.

"A lot of times the issue is people want to do something but think they have to make a huge contribution," Olmos said. "Five dollars, one dollar helps. Listen, a dollar helps, anything helps."

When enough is raised for 100 meals or more, a delivery is scheduled. Then the Blaze Pizza team at the Ming Avenue location by Valley Plaza prepared meals to take to the Bakersfield Homeless Center, which has been chosen as the local beneficiary.

For Blaze Pizza, the meals prepared consist of the "take two" menu option with a salad and half a pizza. 

So far, two meal deliveries were made this month.

Olmos said she's excited to keep the restaurants partnered with the program and possibly involving other franchise locations.

"We will continue for as long as people are still interested in doing it," she said.

If you would like to donate a meal, visit giftaplate.org, click on "Donate" and select the Bakersfield fund.

Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter at @realstefanidias.

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