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By Chris Frost
Members of the public celebrate as Mission Foods step up for COVID-19 relief. (Photo by Chris Frost)
Oxnard-- It was a labor of love, June 13, as Mission Foods partnered with Feeding the Frontline, Glorias Restaurant, and many others to provide essential food for farmworkers and their families.
The giveaway filled the Guadalupe Church parking lot. It took on a celebratory feel as musicians played songs, and sang, as recipients raised their hands in the air and shouted Viva Mexico.
Recipients smiled from ear-to-ear as those who've been hurt the most knew their families would have a good meal because of the effort.
Mission Foods District Sales Manager Ryan Reynoso said the company is handing out approximately 4,500 tortillas from northern through southern California.
"Today, on-site, we are feeding 500 families with burritos from Glorias in Huntington Park, The Knotted Apron, and Ruby's Mexican Grill in Camarillo," he said. "We've been doing this since the beginning of COVID-19, and it's a great cause to give back to the community. "We're trying to bring a smile to the community. Whether it's a pack of tortillas or taking care of people, one person at a time."
He loves seeing the smiles on all the recipients' families when they see food being loaded in their car.
"People get stressed out during these difficult times," he said. "We're bringing smiles, joy, peace, and hope, so they can continue with their faith after COVID-19 is over."
Reynoso feels fortunate that Mission Foods can lighten the load for families feeling the COVID-19 pinch in Northern and Southern California.
"This is a great event here in the beautiful City of Oxnard," he said. "We're looking forward to bringing countless smiles and feeding a lot of people today."
Mission is the largest tortilla company in the world, and Reynoso said all the volunteers came down to do what they can and feed the farmworkers.
"They do a lot of work and put food on our tables," he said. "Now, it's our time to give back to them."
Marketing Director Nancy Muñoz-Morales said helping the farmworkers is an amazing feeling.
"The farmworkers have been hit especially hard in California and haven't had the staples they are used to," she said. "It's an honor to be part of this and joining forces with the chefs we have joined forces with. It's a great feeling."
A lot of families are experiencing difficulties, Muñoz-Morales said, and Mission Foods feel a connection to its customers.
"They're our family," she said. "We're doing the same thing at nine different locations, and we've donated over 40,000 servings of tortillas and chips. We're trying to do what we can to give back to our community."
Getting the tortillas ready and ordering product did not take much, but Muñoz-Morales said distributing the product across California is a different story.
"It requires a lot of organization, not to mention all the county and city regulations that we have to abide by," she said. "It's worth it. Seeing the people's faces when they are receiving the food, there's nothing like it. It's wonderful."
Chef Juan Sanjuan brought the event from Los Angeles to Camarillo and is the driving force behind feeding the farm workers.
"We started this in Los Angeles, and we saw the need," he said. "When COVID-19 first got started, it was the elderly that got hit because they weren't able to go outside. They are our most fragile community. We had just closed a restaurant, so we did a food drive and used the food we prepared to give away to our elderly. Then, we saw the need with our industry people, and it has evolved into our 15th or 16th event."
He gives a lot of credit to Mission Foods because they provide all the tortillas for every hot meal they give away.
"I have an amazing team," he said. "We're up to close to 20,000 burritos that we have given away. Whenever we see a need, we go to a local restaurant, we team up with them, buy all the produce and put this big event together. We're like a traveling burrito crew that we put together."
Ruby's Mexican Restaurant Owner John Hinojosa runs his location in Camarillo and started participating in the project last Oct. after getting closed down without much to do.
"Juan got the idea to do some food distribution in Los Angeles, and he got the idea to bring it to Ventura County," he said. "It's doing well and is well received. A lot of people participate, and it's wonderful."
With all the social distancing due to COVID-19, Hinojosa said it's been challenging and changed how they've done business.
"We needed to get creative and figure out how to save some money," he said. "We started doing takeout, where you can make money, but you have to be creative and active to make money."