‘Full Tummies’ meal program nourishes body and soul

The brainchild of John Raboin, managing partner of The Raboin & Francis Law Firm, and Baxter Cafe & Catering co-owner Kevin Stumpf, the Full Tummies-Weekend Edition meal assistance program has grown from providing free lunches to just students on Saturday mornings to anyone in need.

John Raboin (left) of The Raboin & Francis Law Firm in Baxter and Kevin Stumpf, co-owner of Baxter Cafe & Catering, stand outside the restaurant with a sign supporting the Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce, which has been a supporter of the Full Tummies - Weekend Edition meal assistance program. Photo courtesy of Full Tummies - Weekend Edition

Almost nothing is worse than going to bed on an empty stomach. And almost nothing is better than the feeling of helping someone.

Ask Baxter personal injury attorney John Raboin and Kevin Stumpf, co-owner of Baxter Cafe & Catering. They came up with the Full Tummies-Weekend Edition meals assistance program.

“We thought there might be really desperate times,” said Raboin, managing partner of The Raboin & Francis Law Firm in Baxter. “And so we decided we would just experiment, and we’d apply my money and we’d see how far we could stretch it for weekend meals.”

Raboin used $5,000 to launch the program that began with offering free weekend lunches to students Saturday mornings. Students received two bagged lunch meals for the weekend that could be picked up in the parking lot of Baxter Cafe & Catering.

“He got Pan-O-Gold Baking to donate the buns, which hugely reduced the cost of the meal … and really stretches it pretty far, and he was willing to use his facility,” Raboin said of Stumpf.


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Hubbard Radio heard about the duo’s project and offered free advertising, according to Raboin, and so the company became another sponsor of the program intended to alleviate food insecurity caused by school closures due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have a bunch of our Sertoma people who, as soon as they heard about it, wanted to do this, so we have a pretty steady team of regulars and first-call reserves,” Raboin said of the Brainerd Area Sertoma Club, a volunteer service organization.

The Full Tummies-Weekend Edition program last month announced on its Facebook page and with flyers around town the free weekend lunches were now available to anyone in need, regardless of age.


Full Tummies — Weekend Edition

  • What: Free weekend lunch meals program.

  • When: Order 8-10:30 a.m. Saturdays, pick up 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

  • Where: Baxter Cafe & Catering, 7788 Fairview Road.

  • Cost: Free.

More info: Call 218-829-1739 on Saturday mornings.


Those in need of a lunch meal can call 8-10:30 a.m. Saturdays and then pick it up later that day from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the parking lot of the Fairview Road restaurant.

“These are not just peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We’re talking smoked ham and meat ... and applesauce, carrots, granola bars — you name it. They really are pretty good lunches, and we put two lunches in each bag,” Raboin said.


The Full Tummies - Weekend Edition meal assistance program offers free weekend lunch meals to anyone in need who can pick them up at the Baxter Cafe & Catering. Photo courtesy of Full Tummies - Weekend Edition

The meals are distributed in the parking lot using a contactless delivery system. More than 260 lunches were handed out on Aug. 22, according to organizers.

“We have a limited delivery capability for some families where the parent or both parents work and the kids are hungry … but we really do urge people to come to the Baxter Cafe if they can swing it,” Raboin said.

The Full Tummies-Weekend Edition meals program has grown from its humble beginnings in March to include, for example, a bicycle helmet giveaway one week from Essentia Health, and donations such as smoked meat from Mickey’s Pizza & Subs in Brainerd.

“Sports boosters one time gave away soccer balls, jump ropes and footballs … and Crossing Arts Alliance has three times given away creativity kits to take away on Saturdays,” he said. “Anderson Brothers donated a container to us where we can store everything in a fish house.”

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The Facebook page for the Full Tummies-Weekend Edition lists program partners; the Outreach Program of Brainerd Lakes, known formerly as Kids Against Hunger Brainerd Lakes Area, is also providing each family with a set of prepacked meals.

“And Second Harvest (North Central Food Bank) of Grand Rapids had boxes and boxes of frozen meat and boxes of cheese they wanted to give away through our program … so people came and were lined up around the block. Baxter police had to come help direct traffic,” Raboin recalled of one week. “And it took us an extra hour and a half to give all the stuff away. But we did.”


Raboin said the program has seen a “significant increase in the older population on fixed incomes” in the past three weeks. The program will continue at least through Sept. 19, according to Raboin, but financial donations to keep the program going are always appreciated.

The Full Tummies - Weekend Edition meal assistance program sponsors include The Raboin & Francis Law Firm, Hubbard Radio LLC, Baxter Cafe & Catering, 2060 Digital and Pan-O-Gold Baking Co. Photo courtesy of Full Tummies - Weekend Edition

“We are potentially leaning toward even going possibly through this first semester, not knowing how the school year is going to go or if there’s going to be a second wave (of COVID-19 cases) or what the federal government is going to do about unemployment benefits,” he said.

Raboin said he has received several comments from appreciative people who have picked up a free weekend lunch, stating they would not know what they would do if it were not for the program.

“We had a grandma picking up for her daughter — who didn’t have a car — and four grandkids, and she was so thankful that she was tearing up as she drove away,” Raboin said.

Raboin said the assistance program is exhausting work but so rewarding.

“We have so many people that have wanted to step up and do something for us and be a part of this — and not asking for credit, not asking for a shoutout — just because they want to do it, and it is really heartwarming. We’ve really got an exceptional community,” Raboin said.


FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at . Follow him on Twitter at .

I cover the community of Wadena, Minn., and write mostly features stories for the Wadena Pioneer Journal. The newspaper is owned by Forum Communications Co.
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