Six local restaurants have teamed up with the San Antonio Food Bank to provide 5,000 chef-prepared meals a week to residents of five low-income apartment complexes.
Funded with $100,000 each from Spurs Give and the Tim Duncan Foundation, the goal of the new Spurs Café is to deliver 1,000 meals a day, five days a week.
But the project also is bringing chefs back into the kitchen after weeks of restaurants being closed under state and local stay-at-home orders.
“We’ve been working with restaurants over the years, and between the need of the community and the need of the restaurants to have an influx of cash available, we figured out a way to help fill both sides of the coin,” said Lauren Deal, philanthropy manager at the food bank.
Every morning, food bank trucks arrive at Botika, Bistr09, Guerilla Gourmet, Kuriya at Cherrity Bar, Nonna Osteria, and Pharm Table to pick up and deliver the chef-prepared meals to multifamily complexes owned by nonprofit affordable-housing provider Prospera.
“A lot of our families – they’re parents holding down two jobs and so they need any help they can get,” said Gil Piette, executive director and CEO of Prospera. “Some of those jobs have either cut way back or suspended during the [coronavirus pandemic]. So they’ve got less resources to work with, but they still have families to feed.”
Most residents at Prospera properties make 60 percent or less of the area median income, which is slightly more than $57,000. In addition to other social services, Prospera maintains food pantries at each complex to assist residents. But the current crisis called for greater support.
“Programs like this that provide them some extra assistance with feeding their family is just very, very welcome,” Piette said.
Each Spurs Café meal is made from scratch and contains a source of protein, starch or grain, and vegetables, that can be reheated and stored up to three days.
Botika Chef Geronimo Lopez said his restaurant, which will reopen to diners on Saturday, has been preparing 170 meals per day for Spurs Café. But the meals don’t resemble dishes on the restaurant’s usual menu.
“What we wanted to do were simple things that are comfort food for people, that are chef-prepared, that are nutritionally valued,” Lopez said. So far, he has made sweet-and-sour chicken with rice, roasted pork loin with honey-mustard sauce and potatoes, and on Thursday, carne guisada with charro beans.
Lopez said his restaurant has had a longstanding relationship with the food bank, but the project was also born of his desire to get back to work.
“A chef can only go crazy so much without doing something,” he said. He told the food bank he has a kitchen and free time. “Let’s figure out how to do something.”
To help prepare the Spurs Café meals, Lopez brought two full-time workers and one part-timer back to the restaurant.
“We are bringing people back, but we’re not bringing everybody back,” he said of reopening the restaurant to diners. “We’re not going to be obviously able to employ the same amount of people that we had before. If it wasn’t for programs like this, it would be even less.”
Without the help of Spurs Gives and the Tim Duncan Foundation, however, the project wouldn’t be possible, Lopez said. “I have a lot of friends that are chefs that want to work and want to help, but we just don’t have the money” to underwrite such a project, he said.
Spurs Café is funded for five weeks but will be extended if additional funds are raised. The food bank is accepting donations for the program here.