Sarah Moyer of Project Lunch makes lunches better than Mom’s. Although I have fond memories of my Felix the Cat lunch box holding Mom’s omelette sandwiches, Moyer’s stainless-steel box with a colorful band and a love note carries a louder expression of affection. On the back of a business-sized card with the front message: “thank you for supporting my small business,” she writes, “Stella ~ Enjoy your Greek Falafel Salad! ♥ Sarah.”
Moyer founded Project Lunch in 2017 with the goal of delivering the freshest salads and wraps directly to your desk or meeting in reusable stainless-steel containers. Three years later, with her catering business gaining momentum, the COVID pandemic struck her business hard with cancellations from several large clients. As a result, she had to take a loan out to pay employees.
After working for Starbucks for 10 years, Moyer learned the value of honoring employees. “It is important to respect their dignity and to treat them with kindness.” At 16, she appreciated the benefits of a retirement plan and a health care package.
When Gov. Steve Bullock announced the closing of public schools, Moyer took a step back and thought of the impact on underprivileged kids. “When you live in poverty, you don’t have the ability to do DoorDash or Uber Eats,” she said. Moyer was spurred to action, hoping that “delivering a meal a day might reduce the stress and abuse.”
On March 16, 2020, she started #projectlovebillings, bringing the Billings community together to offer bag lunches to kids in need. On social media, she recruited volunteers and funds, and as of Aug. 21, she had delivered 21,842 sack lunches to hungry kids, right to their doorstep.
As the youngest of three children, she said, “My mom always had me make the salad for dinner.” Though her mother cooked “by the book. I tasted everything for flavor.” With a grandfather who had a pasta business, and her family taking in Vietnamese refugees, Moyer developed an international palate.
With three children of her own — Naomi, age 12, Charles, 8, and Joseph, 4 — Moyer is concerned about nutrition and cooking healthy, and wants to extend her passion for healthy eating to the community: “I want to share the importance of eating food made from scratch, and sourced locally."
Whenever possible, Moyer supports local producers, such as Kate’s Garden and Trevino’s Tortillas. “I package with the intention of recycling,” Moyer said, expressing her belief in sustainability on many levels. The recycling of her containers encourages repeat customers. When they place orders for food, they can exchange the empty containers for ones with food. She protects the environment by not using plastics and Styrofoam.
On this day, with a full schedule and my friend Anna Brewer coming over for lunch, I went online to the Project Lunch website to order the Greek and BLT salads. For dessert, we shared the whipped lavender yogurt with granola, kiwi, mango and pineapple. Half an hour before my delivery time of 12:30 p.m., Holli Klein showed up at my door. With an enthusiastic smile, she handed me a red cloth bag filled with two metal containers and a jar. With Moyer’s mission statement of, “My goal is to have you satisfied and rejuvenated to finish your day at work in a happier state of mind,” I knew I had made the right decision.
Anna’s BLT salad came with beef today, as chicken was unavailable. The salad included Swanky Roots greens, grilled sliced beef, bacon, cucumber and tomatoes with yogurt dill ranch. “The salad dressing is marvelous. It has the right burst of flavors,” she said. “The quality of the greens is really fresh.”
In my Greek salad, the generously sized falafels, made with ground garbanzos from Marias River Farms, sat atop greens that seemed to expand as I dug into the container to retrieve olives, feta, onions and tomatoes.
The yogurt with whipped cream ended our meal with light richness.
Moyer will be expanding out of the kitchen she shares with Miss Gigi’s Sweets in the old Log Cabin Bakery building as she partners with Billings Community Foundation. The organization recently purchased the Commons building downtown where Moyer will be creating a community restaurant, where she can continue to share her passion about food sweetened with a love note.
Stella Fong, author of 'Historic Restaurants of Billings and Billings Food' hosts 'Flavors Under the Big Sky: Celebrating the Bounty of the Region' for Yellowstone Public Radio.
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