The Veggie Wagon has revived a popular pandemic-era initiative that provides limited-edition take-and-bake options for customers while supporting local families experiencing food insecurity.
Casseroles for a Cause was first launched in March 2020 with a new selection of pre-made casseroles for those in search of easy meals. For each casserole sold under the program's banner, another was donated to a local food bank. Despite its success, Casseroles for a Cause was halted later that year as The Veggie Wagon adjusted to the early twists and turns of the pandemic.
“It was a giant success,” said owner Max Sussman. “We were trying to navigate COVID with everybody else and we put a pause on it.”
Last month, the business relaunched the initiative, this time partnering with Salt Marsh Market in Surf City (described by Sussman as The Veggie Wagon’s sister business
) to expand the program’s reach into Pender County.
“It benefits multiple counties now, whereas before it just benefitted New Hanover County,” Sussman said.
Sussman said he envisions Casseroles for a Cause recurring each month, with two new casseroles released for each installment. In February, Kung Pao Chicken and Buffalo Cauliflower Mac ‘n’ Cheese were offered. Every rotating selection will include a choice for meat eaters and vegetarians alike, Sussman noted.
“We try to cover all of our bases so people who are looking for a meat product and people who aren’t have an option,” he said.
Creating the limited-edition dishes has been a fun challenge for those involved, Sussman said, allowing staff at The Veggie Wagon’s production kitchen to experiment with new flavor profiles and preparation techniques.
“It’s nice to play around and see what we can do and create,” Sussman said.
As before, a casserole is donated to a local food bank for each one purchased through the program. Casseroles purchased from The Veggie Wagon locations will count toward donations to the Help Center of Federal Point, and those purchased at Salt Marsh Market will add to the tally gifted to Share the Table of Pender County.
So far, many participants have bought multiple casseroles each month, Sussman said.
“Because it’s a frozen product, people can throw it in the freezer and wait until it’s a busy Monday or they don’t feel like cooking to pop it in the oven from frozen and cook it all the way through,” Sussman said.
Sussman estimated that each casserole, priced at $18.95, can feed between two and four people. This month’s Casseroles for a Cause menu consists of two choices. Chicken cordon bleu casserole is one option, with chicken, ham, egg noodles and cheese baked together in a creamy sauce and finished with a crispy breadcrumb topping. The other is a Mediterranean pasta bake with sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, artichokes and black olives tossed in a garlicky white wine sauce and topped with crumbled feta cheese and fresh parsley.
Orders can be placed by March 14 at either of The Veggie Wagon's locations or on the business’s website
, with casserole pickup scheduled for March 21 at either The Veggie Wagon or Salt Marsh Market at the time of purchase.
Sussman and his wife April Sussman opened the first Veggie Wagon location in Carolina Beach in 2009. Today, the company also operates a second store off Masonboro Loop Road. Each location is stocked with produce and other local fare in addition to more than 400 prepared foods ranging from dips and sauces to baked goods and take-and-bake casseroles. The business’s prepared products are also carried by more than two dozen retail partners located largely in Brunswick, New Hanover and Pender counties.
Have a tip for Restaurant Roundup? Email us at [email protected].