Jeannette Pulido spent her one-year anniversary of opening 4th Street Eatery in April shortly after the Covid-19 pandemic forced her small businesses to make some drastic changes just to stay open.
But, she’ll be getting some much needed assistance as San Benito County has partnered yet again with the San Benito County Chamber of Commerce to manage the Great Plates Delivered program.
A total of nine restaurants, including 4th Street Eatery, on Jan. 19 began delivering meals to 391 qualified senior citizens of the county. According to county officials, it represents an approximate 25 percent increase in local need for the program.
“It’s definitely going to help us no matter how you look at it,” Pulido said. “I hope the program can stay the duration that they say it’s going to stay, which is until June, and to know you’re going to have set meals for people in this community for an ‘X’ amount of time, that’s remarkable.”
The main purpose of the program is to deliver three nutritious meals a day to the older community along with adults at high risk from Covid-19, advising them to stay home and stay healthy.
Other restaurants in the program include Relax! Grillin & Chillin, Paine’s Restaurant, Be True Cafe and Mangia Italian Kitchen in Hollister; Mission Cafe in San Juan Bautista; FlapJacks Breakfast and Grill, Eva Mae’s Cafe and the Inn at Tres Pinos in Tres Pinos.
Pulido was ecstatic and blessed that the San Benito County Board of Supervisors on Jan. 12 unanimously approved restarting the “Great Plates Delivered” program in the county. She truly believes it helps her business—and her staff of three employees get to keep their jobs.
“We’re helping the community and the community is helping us,” Pulido said. “It’s definitely a win-win and we couldn’t be more happy or ecstatic that we’re one of the participants in the program.”
Program coordinator Ashlyn Archibeque said an additional 10 restaurants applied to distribute meals and hopefully three of those will also begin providing meals soon.
“If we keep accumulating all the senior citizens, the more that we add to the program the more restaurants we’ll end up needing,” she said. “I say for about every 20 to 50 people that we add, we have to add a restaurant.”
Archibeque was an intern at the Chamber of Commerce when she was asked to help coordinate the program. She began to build a passion for it because she felt the small businesses needed the business and people in the county needed to get fed.
“It’s very essential that we have this program during the pandemic,” Archibeque said.
As of Jan. 19, 469 people had signed up for the program. Archibeque mentioned that she felt the meals are essential to the community and she didn’t realize how many people need support at this time.
When she took over the program they were providing meals for 300 seniors. Last week, they took in about 40 to 60 new people every day calling in or trying to register their family-friends, their neighbors or parents.
“Within this first week we’ve had tons of calls of people really trying to get into this program,” Archibeque said.
Keeping restaurants alive
The Great Plates Delivered program’s other goal is to provide economic stimulus to local businesses struggling to stay afloat during the Covid-19 crisis.
The one thing that The Inn owner Mike Howard stressed about is that they’ll never look for a handout and they want to earn every kind of success by staying busy in the kitchen.
“We get to work,” he said. “This provides us an opportunity to keep the engine running, to keep the bodies from the unemployment line.”
Archibeque said the restaurants participating in the program should get some kind of financial relief.
“I honestly don’t know what restaurants will make it out of Covid but I think this program helps them get through it,” she said.
The state and the FEMA Public Assistance program will fund the program to run until June. The way the restaurants are reimbursed is based on the average of the U.S General Services Administration per diem rates for California, which is $66 for three meals.
Archibeque said they divide up the clients to restaurants based on what food they serve and if they can serve breakfast, lunch or dinner.
The restaurants are responsible for preparing and delivering the food every day.
“It’s really good because the people involved in the program get a really nice paycheck,” Archibeque said. “And they serve really good quality meals too, which is really nice.”
Howard’s staff at The Inn is made up of 27 employees, most of whom transitioned from servers and bussers to delivery drivers.
Howard, who’s been running a fine dining restaurant for the past 30 years, said the state basically told them they can no longer do business the way they’re accustomed to. But in return they’re offering the program, which will keep them operating for now.
“This by all means is not a grant program whatsoever, this is an opportunity to work,” he said.
Howard added that the way the program is positioned makes it so that there are equal beneficiaries for both the recipients and the providers. He also believes the concern isn’t keeping his restaurant alive but it’s about the staff being able to hold on to a job.
“It’s not about me, it’s about the people that are right now at my restaurant putting that food from the pan to the container,” he said. “You can tell that by today there are nine people who are affected by that decision making, meaning these people are working.”
It’s been nearly a year since the pandemic hit and now the vaccine has arrived but Pulido said she still sees things the same.
“We haven’t seen the rewards yet of that vaccine ending the pandemic,” she said. “Of course you don’t know when that’s going to be. We were setting goals to just make it to the end of year, I thought that was an accomplishment. This couldn’t have come at a better time for us, that’s for sure.”
Pulido mentioned that the program keeps them in business in a sense that each week they receive a list of participants that need meals, which is potential income. She said it’s unpredictable to know how many clients are walking through the doors on any given day.
She hates to use the word “rely” when it comes to having steady income because of the program, but she knows it pays her out every other week and there’s never been an issue, which is plenty of assurance for her and the staff.
“It’s just the fact that you have a set amount of meals that you’re going to put out and that right there is income already set to come through your door,” she said.
Restaurants and businesses are not required to be a member of the chamber of commerce to participate in the program.
Restaurant owners who are interested in providing meals or seniors interested in receiving them should visit covid19.ca.gov/restaurants-deliver-home-meals-for-seniors.
For more local information on this program, email Program Coordinator Ashlyn Archibeque at [email protected] or call the Chamber office at 831.637.5315.