Food Trucks and World Central Kitchen to the Rescue | On the Table

Three-year-old Leilani Valverde held a partially unwrapped burrito sideways in both hands, bit into the middle and smiled. According to her father, Christian Valverde, who brought her to the Rio Dell Fire Department Thursday morning, it was her first hot meal in two days since a 6.4 earthquake near Ferndale knocked out power and water to their home.

After December 20 In the wake of the storm, chef José Andréas’ international aid organization World Central Kitchen quickly mobilized to feed residents without access to food, water and other utilities. With electricity and water in other parts of the county, the nonprofit, which responds to humanitarian disasters around the world, didn’t have to set up entire mobile kitchens. Instead, she reached out to tap a local resource ready to help: food trucks. By the end of the day, December 21, they had served about 1,700 meals.

Sam Bloch, Director of Emergency Services at World Central Kitchen, said work began as soon as he and his coworkers in Oakland woke up to the news. “Every disaster and every community’s needs are different, so we put our boots on the ground and talk to people and plan the right time and way to get people fed.” After power and water were out in Rio Dell and Fortuna, they set up hot food stations in both cities: one at Rohner Park near the Red Cross shelter and one at the Rio Dell Fire Department, which moved to Monument High School. “We’re looking at people’s ability to make adequate food,” such as access to water, electricity, stores and gas, Bloch said. “It takes a lot to cook at home.”

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Bloch met with Rio Dell Mayor Debra Garnes, fire department and Red Cross staff, while his colleague Pragnya Alekal took on Fortuna’s end of affairs. He also appealed to food truck owners, who are already ready to roll into town with pre-made ingredients, independent energy and water. “If there are local businesses that are there and can do it and can take advantage of the business, it makes sense.”

A call to Loco Fish Co.’s Jayme Knight, whose inventory had just run out, led him to Knight’s neighbor, David Velasco, owner of the Manzanilla food truck. From there, Velasco sent a message among his mobile food connections. “I called my friends at Humboldt Bay Burgers, Fógon Costeño, Taqueria Martinez and Oaxaca Grill and a few others to see if they could provide a few hundred burritos each,” Velasco said. Most asked if he was joking, he replied with a laugh. “We got a lot of people together, so it was great.”

Enrique Buenrostro of Fógon Costeño, Miguel Martinez of Taqueria Martinez, Osmando and Omar Hernandez of Los Giles Taqueria, Oaxaca Grill and Leobardo Rivera of Humboldt Bay Burgers answered the call. Gabby Long of Taste of Bim joined the organization through Humboldt Made, and Jorgelina and Gino Granados of Pupuseria San Miguel also accepted the challenge.

From there, Bloch established a uniform meal rate for businesses to pay. “We are culinary people and we love local business… [and so we] pay for a meal.” For many of the restaurants and mobile businesses World Central Kitchen works with, the relief effort means they’re cooking more than they’ve ever done in a single day.

Working in Buenrostro’s truck, which was lighter than the Manzanilla rig, Velasco and Buenrostro ate about 1,800 meals during their 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. December 21, 22 and 23

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Velasco said it looked like they would make a small profit, but that wasn’t the most important thing to him. “We’re more excited to feed all those meals than we are to cook,” he said, adding that he agreed to work with Bloch before he knew what the organization was paying for. “What was even more amazing to me was that World Central Kitchen brought it all together. I was very happy to work with them. It was a really nice experience to see so many happy people.”

Long, who serves comfort food like fried chicken and beef short ribs from her Taste of Bim truck in Fortuna and Rio Deli, said, “It was definitely nice to see that people are appreciative. , but good job.” After hearing about the hardships people are going through after being displaced from their homes, sometimes crammed into temporary quarters, she felt compelled to make Christmas dinner special. That night, the truck served baked ham or vegan veggie pasta for dinner. While she was moved, Long wasn’t surprised to see the people of Humboldt — volunteers, first responders, neighbors and operators of food restaurants and food trucks — come together in the wake of the disaster. – That’s who we are.

A line of cars wrapped around the Rio Dell fire station, stopping to pick up boxes of shelf-stable food, cleaning supplies and bottled water. At the end of the lot, Rosio Lopez, Omar and Osmando Hernandez sent burritos and tacos out the window of the Los Giles Taqueria truck, from where volunteers took them to cars and to waiting people on foot. Next to Fógon Costeño’s red truck, Velasco and Buenrostro were pounding away at foil-wrapped pork, chicken, beef and bean burritos.

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When a volunteer asked one driver what kind of burritos she wanted for her family, she waved her hand and replied, “We’re not picky. We’re just hungry.” After accepting a swinging bag of burritos, she added, “Thank you for all you do.”

Garnes, dressed in a Santa hat, was waiting for 100 burritos from the Taqueria Martinez truck to deliver to seniors in Rio Delhi. “A lot of people can get here, but there are so many people who can’t,” she said. Right after the earthquake, she put together a team that delivered food during the COVID lockdown to re-feed seniors in their homes with food from trucks supported by World Central Kitchen. “I was very impressed with all the people who attended and the response.

According to Bloch, there is no set budget for the Rio Dell and Fortuna operations. It will last as long as it takes. Humboldt County is the 58th setup in four and a half years in 24 countries. Quoting founder Andrés, Bloch said: “World Central Kitchen is the biggest organization in the world because every restaurant, farmer and food truck is part of it, even if they don’t know we exist yet.”

Jennifer Fumiko Cahill (she/her) is the magazine’s arts and features editor. Contact her at (707) 442-1400, extension 320 or [email protected] Follow her on Instagram @JFumikoCahill and Mastodon @[email protected]


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