Chef Latinos, multiple community partners and Southwestern College volunteers gathered to help National City residents Monday by providing warm meals, fresh produce and other supplies in a special drive-through distribution at the college’s National City campus.
The distribution was an international affair as new partners–Chef Latinos–brought their passion and expertise to the community event.
Antonio Alcaraz, the Director of Chefs Latinos and his coalition of Latin American chefs from Mexico, South America and California, envisioned Chef Latinos a year and a half ago to create a group of chefs that would leave an impact on the world. They participate in food drives all over the globe. Chef Latinos has traveled throughout the United States, Mexico, El Salvador, Columbia and Cuba to spread good food and a sense of humanity everywhere they go. Their goal is to share their artistry, their history, creativity and their country’s cultural roots with the world.
Jorge A. Fuentes, the Owner/Operator of Mariscos German Beyer in San Ysidro and partner with Chef Latinos, and Jacqueline Reynoso, the President of the National City Chamber Foundation, said Chef Latinos chose National City for this event because they felt they could make the most impact here with people that really need assistance.
“National City is a food desert with limited access to healthy, affordable and culturally appropriate nourishment,” Reynoso said. “Today, residents face unprecedented unemployment rates of 33%. Partnering with Chefs Latinos is a welcomed opportunity during these challenging times to provide hunger relief to our community.”
Although the event was challenging because several of the chefs were from out of town, the food drive was a huge success, giving out a little more than 400 care packages to the families in National City and South Bay. Families received three warm meals, that included fresh fish burritos and pulled chicken tortas, a box of fresh produce, a voucher giving them access to books from their local library and antibacterial supplies. Social distancing protocols were in place. Participants arrived early by car and were greeted by volunteers to receive their donation through their trunks.
Sonja Camargo, an event participant and SWC student, was grateful for the event.
“I appreciate seeing organizations step up to the plate to help their local communities in time of need,” Camargo said. “I just want to say how thankful I am that SWC, Chef Latinos and the other participating organizations have decided to help. This event really makes all the difference to show that people care and we aren’t alone.
“I first want to say thank you to the National City Higher Education Center,” Camargo said. “They are always so willing to go above and beyond for their students. It isn’t like any place I’ve ever been to. It’s more like a family. The Dean and all the staff are truly unique and caring.”
Dean Christine Perri said the event was an opportunity for Southwestern College to help families during a challenging time.
“Southwestern College takes its mission of providing support to the communities it serves to heart in all of our activities, be it educational opportunities, economic development activities and social support,” Perri said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our communities greatly, and this was one way in which we could support those who might be facing food insecurities at this time.”
Other partners in Monday’s event were the NALEO Educational Foundation and the “Hagase Contar” campaign, a US Census outreach partner of the National City Chamber Foundation, which promoted the event and the importance of the census and its impact on food security. Murphy’s Produce with Purpose, a local food distribution site in National City, provided 300 boxes of produce to supplement the 1,000 meals provided by Chefs Latinos. San Diego Innovation High School donated tote bags, while the Shryne Group and a nonprofit organization, 86 Sanitizer.org, provided face masks and hand sanitizers to keep volunteers and households germ-free during the food drive. Mundo Gardens, a grassroots organization dedicated to health and wellness education through music, arts and nature, partnered by delivering volunteers and support for this event.