Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and broccolini, made by Mission Avenue Bar & Grill for folks in need
In the weeks since American public life was officially put on pause in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, too much the news out of the restaurant industry has been dire. Dining rooms closed, millions out of work, and even as some restaurants scramble to make a go serving take-out and delivery, some analysts predict more than a hundred thousand American restaurants will close permanently as these weeks turn into months.
The Plot, one of several Oceanside restaurants enlisted to provide meals to those vulnerable during social isolation
There’s better news out of the city of Oceanside, which has found a novel way to support local restaurants while providing government assistance to citizens facing food insecurity.
By unanimous vote, the Oceanside city council allocated $50,000 for a program to purchase nutritious daily meals prepared by local eateries, to feed residents of nonprofit group homes adapting to changes in food supply and social isolation rules.
The program started delivering meals Monday, March 30, only four days after council approval. It’s being overseen by the city’s neighborhood services department, which reached out to the North County Food Bank to identify local organizations in need of meals.
From Monday through Friday, 66 meals per day went to Loving the Elderly, which distributed them to four senior living locations; 28 meals per day to CRF Casa Pacifica, a transitional home for adults treated for chronic mental illness; and 25 meals per day to the Women’s Resource Center, which provides shelter to victims of domestic abuse.
Five restaurants and counting that have been enlisted thus far cover a range of cuisines, ranging from the Guamanian food of Guahan Grill to the offbeat sushi of Wrench & Rodent. Newly opened vegan restaurant the Plot is preparing 100 percent plant-based meals, usually incorporating produce sourced from local farms, adding a second layer of economic support to the program.
The meals themselves are determined by the restaurants, within a loose set of parameters. “What we ask is for restaurants to make a nutritional meal,” says Javier Bermudez, a management analyst for the department overseeing the program, “and charge about 7 or 8 dollars per meal.”
Meals provided by the Plot have included meatless shepherd's pie and meatloaf sandwiches. Downtown Oceanside’s Mission Avenue Bar & Grill has prepared lunches of fried chicken and mashed potatoes and turkey sandwiches.
Whether those receiving the meals know it or not, they’re being made by a few of Oceanside’s more popular chefs. Mission Avenue executive chef William Eik is cooking meals on behalf of his restaurant, and his newer Japanese pop-up, Matsu, which prior to the pandemic was serving exclusive, eight-course tasting menus at $120 per person.
But for now, the Matsu chef is keeping busy making breakfast meals for people who really need them, including the likes of coconut milk pancakes and bacon congee (rice porridge). Of course, he downplays the effort.
“It’s nothing really that special,” Eik says, “Mostly, we are just keeping things simple and feeding people in need, and that’s why I was interested in helping.”