Natomas Eateries Get Boost from Meal Program

Image of woman wearing face mask and gloves placing small containers of sauce into a boxed meal.

A worker boxes Great Plates Delivered meals prepared at Koshi Ramen which highlight the diversity and variety of the restaurant’s menu. / Photo

THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz

Image of woman holding a boxed meal with rice, beans and chili verde inside.

524 Mexican Restaurant owner Luisa Fonseca said dinners prepared for the Great Plates Delivered Program reflect the restaurant’s traditional menu. / Photo

Five Natomas-area restaurants are getting a much-needed boost by participating in the Great Plates Delivered Program.

The statewide program has two goals: to help seniors and other adults at high risk from COVID-19 by delivering three nutritious meals a day, and to bolster local businesses struggling during the pandemic.

It’s a “win-win all the way across,” said Julia Burrows, senior policy adviser to Mayor Darrell Steinberg.

The Great Plates Delivered Program was launched in Sacramento on May 14 and will continue through July 10 thanks to an extension on funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state, it was announced last week. FEMA is paying for 75% of the program while the state contributes 18.75% of the cost and the city picks up the remaining 6.25%.

“The city expects the use of CARES Act funds for the local match and that some of the match may be met through the donation of transportation services from Paratransit, Inc. United Cerebral Palsy, Lyft and from volunteer meal delivery hours,” said Burrows.

Thirty restaurants prepared meals for seniors during the first phase of the city’s program from May 14 to May 31. That included Natomas restaurants Dos Coyotes Border Cafe, Falafel Corner and Koshi Ramen.

Close up image of boxed meal with white rice and piece of grilled eel.

Meals are low salt, low sugar and include fruit and vegetables daily. The city provides the food packaging while restaurants prepare and package the meals. / Photo

Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, Koshi Ramen owner Debbie Cun said most of her customers dined in the restaurant. Although she has not had to layoff any workers, Cun said she had to cut staff hours with the shift to take out only. (The restaurant reopened for dine in on June 10.)

“This is a very good program,” said Cun, who opened Koshi Ramen about 16 months ago. “It helps the seniors and us as well.”

During the first phase, the Great Plates Delivered Program fed 760 seniors citywide. That number jumped to 1,100 seniors during the second phase which started June 1.

“We believe Sacramento has one of the largest programs in the state, with just L.A., Orange County, Oakland, and San Jose/Santa Clara estimated to have larger programs,” said Burrows.

Fourteen more restaurants were also added to the lineup during the second phase, including Bella Bru and 524 Mexican Restaurant in Natomas.

524 Mexican Restaurant has been a staple on the Northgate corridor since 1978. The eatery closed for a week due to the COVID-19 pandemic and when it reopened for take-out orders, it was with mother-and-daughter owners Luisa Fonseca and Amalia Gomez and one cook. The rest of the workers had to be laid off.

Fonseca said they learned about the Great Plates Delivered Program thanks to a longtime customer. And, as a result, she’s been able to start bringing back workers.

“Anything at this point will help,” Fonseca said. “People are still scared to come in to dine, so this (program) will help.”

Exactly 200 of the 1,100 seniors being fed through the Great Plates Delivered Program reside in Natomas within the 95833, 95834, and 95835 zip codes — or 18% of the participants.

Said Fonseca, “It’s a great program and we are happy to be part of it.”

Great Plates is not enrolling additional seniors or restaurants at this time. If you are a senior participating in the program and have questions, call the Great Plates hotline number at 916-808-8848.

Image of four women in the process of packing and closing cardboard boxes which hold box meals.

524 Mexican Restaurant has been able to bring back some employees to help with Great Plates Delivered Program meals. / Photo


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