OTTAWA -- While restaurants remain closed for dining during the COVID-19 pandemic, many chefs across the city have opened their kitchens to cook for a cause, providing meals for those in need. 

On today's menu at Marcie's café, owner Jo-Ann Laverty is cooking up a risotto with mushrooms and sweet peas paired with roasted chicken, chard carrots and sauce. Laverty is preparing 400 meals this week. 

Laverty's business came to a halt when COVID-19 closed office buildings, because her restaurant is mostly catering. She says it was an immediate shut down, and faced with the unknown, Laverty did what she does best, cook. She started a GoFundMe page, committing to donating 1,500 meals a month.

"It was an opportunity for me to do what I feel is my responsibility," Laverty says. "I started cooking prepared meals and soups, freezing them and they were being delivered to the emergency food centre in the Heron neighbourhood."

It was also an opportunity to join the Parkdale Food Centre's "Cooking for a Cause Ottawa." The centre's executive director, Karen Secord, says it’s a win-win-win. Secord heads the program, funded in part by the Ottawa Community Foundation and the city's Emergency Relief Fund. It gives closed restaurants a chance to open their kitchens, having them cook the meals for the cities most vulnerable. 

"What you're doing is you're giving it to isolated seniors, are giving it to people at the safe consumption site, you're giving it to street involved youth," says Secord. "That's the value of it and from the social services side of it, the social workers are saying this gives us an opportunity to go once a week or more to do wellness checks."

So far, 10 restaurants have joined in and more are on the way. Nearly 2,500 meals are being handed out per week. 

Other businesses with the means to transport the meals are picking them up and delivering them to a variety of community agencies across the city. Thyme & Again is using their catering vans to pick up and deliver hundreds of meals around the city each day. Today's drop-offs are at the Centretown Community Health Centre and the Caldwell Family Centre.

For Jo-Ann Laverty, the future of Marcie's Café is still unknown. But one thing she does know, she'll always be in the kitchen helping others. She says supporting her community is very important and her mission is to be cooking for others who are vulnerable.