Allison Kerek

Food cart owner Jeremy Sivers is no stranger to need. The Portland native and his brother were raised by a single mother who worked shifts at Mike’s Drive-In in Milwauki and the chainsaw company Blount to make ends meet. When he was five, his family lost everything of value when their home was robbed. They survived much of his childhood by relying on their Oregon Trail card and receiving boxes of foods and clothes delivered to their home.

Helping those in need by donating non-perishable canned goods and winter coats to struggling families is always a generous gesture. However, from a kid’s perspective, generosity can sometimes create small traumas when they’re expected to feel gratitude for eating canned foods they don’t like or button up a coat they’d never choose to wear.

Sivers wants to turn that kind of charity inside-out at his still fairly new Hollywood neighborhood cheeseburger cart, Hit the Spot. When he opened in late September, he initiated a program offering 10 percent discounts to Portlanders serving their communities: Teachers get the discount on Mondays, single parents on Wednesdays, and active military personnel and veterans get it every day.

Meg Nanna

But Sivers also aims to offer a more immediate and intimate helping hand. He wants to gift struggling Portland families with what they specifically need, not just what they could merely use.

“It sucks growing up poor and struggling, but you sure as hell learn a lot,” Sivers says. “When something terrible happens and you don’t have any money, you can’t really go to the bank to get a loan. There’s really nowhere to go.”

To lend that kind of hand, Sivers’ Hit the Spot has launched a public assistance program. Individuals or families can visit the cart’s website to explain the circumstances that have left them temporarily economically vulnerable. If chosen (by resident voters via social media), Hit the Spot will donate 10 percent of its daily sales to the applicant until their assistance is met. Sivers says that kind of relief could take weeks or even six months, depending on what the applicants need.

And the assistance can be for any reason: Perhaps a family can’t afford a new winter coat for their kid. Perhaps a family’s breadwinner needs a new alternator so they can get to work on time. Or perhaps an individual needs a serious medical procedure. All are encouraged to apply, Sivers says, no matter the need.

Meg Nanna

Sivers also wants to provide this type of assistance without breaking your bank. Despite providing discounts for teachers, single parents, and more, he still wants to make sure the rest of us can get in and out without ever having to pay more than $10 for an expertly built classic burger, crinkle-cut fries, and a soft drink.

“I want people to come here and get a good burger and also know that they’re helping someone who needs it,” Sivers says.

So who needs it? So far, Sivers says that no one’s applied to the cart’s assistance program yet, mainly because Sivers has been working so many hours—12-hour days, six days a week—that he’s scarcely had time to promote his cause. But now that you know, he expects all that to change very, very soon.