South Bronx restaurant turns into soup kitchen to help poor

South Bronx Restaurant Turns Into Soup Kitchen To Help Poor

South Bronx Restaurant Turns Into Soup Kitchen To Help Poor

 

At South Bronx Mexican restaurant, “activism is our secret spice.”

 

The special dish at La Morada, a small Mexican restaurant in the Bronx, varies from day to day: Perhaps it’s enfrijoladas, handmade tortillas covered with black bean sauce and pico de gallo. Or beef with a side salad.

At this family-run restaurant turned soup kitchen, one thing doesn’t change: It’s free.

The family-run restaurant, which opened in 2009 and has won Michelin acclaim for its Oaxacan food, has also served as a soup kitchen during the pandemic. In addition to serving paying customers, it makes about 650 meals a day for the unemployed, New Yorkers who live without gas and can’t cook, older adults or the disabled.

 

 

South Bronx restaurant turns into soup kitchen to help poor

A worker lifts a box containing prepared meals at La Morada, an award winning Mexican restaurant in South Bronx, Wednesday Oct. 28, 2020, in New York. The restaurant became a soup kitchen during the pandemic and is currently making about 650 meals a day for the unemployed, the poor and New Yorkers who live without gas and can’t cook.
Bebeto Matthews

 

 

The Mexican owners of the restaurant are activists who speak up in defense of immigrants without authorization to live in the U.S. — a sign, “No Deportations,” hangs behind the door.

They describe the soup kitchen as fulfilling work.

“We always say that activism is our secret spice, so I feel like it was just very natural for us to serve the community with what we have,” said Yajaira Saavedra, 32, co-owner of the restaurant with her parents. “It also goes back to our Indigenous roots when we all pitched in, gathered small ingredients and made a big pot as a meal.”

 

 

South Bronx restaurant turns into soup kitchen to help poor

Yahaira Saavedra, right, co-owner of the Mexican restaurant La Morada, and volunteer Dan Zimberg, left, cross a street pushing a trolley load of boxed meals prepared at the South Bronx restaurant, Wednesday Oct. 28, 2020, in New York. After a fund raising campaign during the coronavirus pandemic, Saavedra and her parents transformed the restaurant into a soup kitchen, serving 650 meals daily.
Bebeto Matthews

 

 

The Bronx is among the areas hardest hit by the virus. When La Morada’s soup kitchen opened in April, people lined up in the street and 200 soups were gone in less than an hour, the family said.

“We realized the necessity was huge. The next day, without thinking, we cooked double,” said Saavedra’s mother, Natalia Mendez.

The family was sickened with COVID-19 symptoms early in the pandemic, and had to close the restaurant for a month. When they reopened — with help from an online crowdfunding campaign — they started cooking for the poor, as well.

 

South Bronx restaurant turns into soup kitchen to help poor

Volunteer Dolly Caulderon, center, prepares to hand out boxed meals prepared at the South Bronx restaurant La Morada, Wednesday Oct. 28, 2020, in New York. After a fund raising campaign during the coronavirus pandemic, La Morada, an award winning Mexican restaurant, reopened and now also functions as a soup kitchen, serving 650 meals daily.
Bebeto Matthews

 

Their requests for emergency federal small-business loans had been rejected due to their immigration status. The Small Business Administration says applicants for small-business loans must be U.S. citizens or “qualified aliens,” which includes immigrants lawfully admitted for permanent residence.

Saavedra is a beneficiary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which gives young immigrants who were brought to the country as children but never obtained legal residency the right to work and shields them from deportation.

Before the pandemic, La Morada was a community book exchange center and had named a poet in residence. Images of protests and of immigrants demanding an end to deportations of family members decorate the restaurant’s purple walls.

Today, volunteers and local service organizations, churches and businesses help distribute the food and donate ingredients, and a Brooklyn nonprofit, Rethink Food, provides key funds. The food is delivered to communities in need and to community fridges, a network of over a dozen refrigerators on New York sidewalks.

The soup kitchen runs Tuesday through Friday. Volunteers come and go throughout the day, grabbing boxes of food to distribute. With the help of small local grants, the restaurant has even hired a few new employees.

“It is mostly the community pitching in and friends and allies just saying, ‘We are going to do this, we are going to fight together and survive,’ ” Saavedra said.

 

More information on locating soup kitchens and food pantries.

 

 


 

 

Source: Star Tribune By Claudia Torrens

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