Amid Covid, popular Mexican restaurant in Philly serves up social justice issues too

A popular Mexican restaurant in Philadelphia serves up social justice issues too. - @NBCLatino

4/12/2021 8:52:00 PM

A popular Mexican restaurant in Philadelphia serves up social justice issues too. - NBCLatino

Amid Covid, married restaurateurs Cristina Martinez and Benjamin Miller of South Philly Barbacoa helped create The People's Kitchen, a community kitchen for those in need.

. The People’s Kitchen, a partnership between South Philly Barbacoa and community collaborative 215 People’s Alliance, soon began serving restaurant-quality meals to those in need.Using the space at Martinez and Miller’s El Compadre, the sister restaurant of South Philly Barbacoa, the couple collaborates with other chefs and volunteers to serve anywhere between 215 and 300 meals a day.

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Each quarter, different chefs from local restaurants are paid to come in and run the kitchen and crew on a daily basis, giving work to those who have needed it during the pandemic, Miller said. But the project, which is possible thanks to mostly donated food and funds from chef José Andrés' not-for-profit organization

World Central Kitchen, has a reach beyond the kitchen.In Point Breeze, volunteers pick and grow vegetables at a community garden. Delivery drivers also volunteer their own time to distribute some of the food for people who can’t access the restaurant's physical location. headtopics.com

The scope of the project, too, stretches far beyond feeding people.“It was also a movement for us to look at what we were missing in the system a little bit too, and how our restaurants excluded certain people,” Miller said. “The best food is being prepared for the wealthier patrons, so how can we get this food and bring it to people who don’t have and try to make a more inclusive community that can enjoy the fruits of our labor?”

That bottom-up focus also includes distributing information. In the largely Latino South Philadelphia corridor, for example, volunteers encouraged people to be counted and participate in last year’s census. They also registered people to vote and partner with community organizations like the Church of the Redeemer Baptist Church and Puentes de Salud, a nonprofit that provides health care to Philadelphia’s Latino immigrant population, to distribute meals.

Miller said the People’s Kitchen has an operating budget of about $25,000 a month. The groupis looking for sustaining donorsto ensure the collaborative continues beyond the end of the pandemic.“This is our opportunity to build a restaurant model that is really using our talents in the best way possible,” said Miller.

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