How Texas Restaurants Stepped Up To Help After Devastating Winter Storm

San Antonio catering company Guerrilla Gourmet was one of 17 local purveyors that stepped up to help … [+]

On February 14, an unprecedented winter storm seized the entire State of Texas, with snow, ice, and freezing temperatures sweeping across the area. The record-breaking, week-long freezing conditions caused massive power outages, bursting frozen pipes and road closures, leaving millions without heat during the storm and without food and water in the aftermath. And while government officials spent their time pointing fingers and passing the buck, the restaurant industry came to the rescue yet again.

“When this all started happening our big focus was figuring out ways to support Good Work Austin, whether it was communicating to restaurants that we had worked with previously by sharing opportunities for them to get involved, or offering help with anything from drivers to funding opportunities,” says Mariam Parker, executive director of the Texas Food and Wine Alliance (TFWA). “People would come to us and ask what they could do to support, and we would just send them to Good Work Austin because they already had a structure in place since they’ve been doing these relief kinds of efforts through the COVID-19 pandemic.”

TWFA partner Whole Foods Market reached out to Parker to offer help for the community by purchasing meals from local restaurants. “Part of the challenge was that people were facing supply issues, plumbing issues, any kind of potential issues you could possibly imagine, so when we reached out to restaurants, we kept that in mind,” she says. “Some would say, you know what, I could do 50 meals, so we’d buy them and send volunteers to pick up and distribute.”

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At the same time, Parker got an email from San Antonio asking for the Alliance’s help to feed residents of the city’s District 5, who were struggling to get support. “So I reached out to World Central Kitchen to connect with their representatives in Texas to bring everyone together,” she says.

World Central Kitchen arrived in Texas within days of the disaster to coordinate food and water … [+]

Founded by Chef José Andrés, World Central Kitchen (WCK) quickly and efficiently delivers food and water to communities in need, serving more than 50 million fresh meals to people impacted by natural disasters and other crises around the world since 2010.

WCT’s Relief Team contacted their Texas restaurant partners that had helped in response to the pandemic over the past year. Teams on the ground served meals in Houston on Wednesday before quickly expanding efforts into Austin, San Antonio, Fort Worth, and Dallas on Thursday. By Friday evening, these teams had served tens of thousands of meals to affected residents across the state. Meanwhile, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was arriving in Cancun for a family vacation.

A Houston resident reacts to WCK’s founder Chef José Andrés delivering meals to her home.

Thanks to TFWA and their partners, 17 San Antonio restaurants and caterers provided 8,600 meals in four days to the people in District 5, which is a vulnerable community in San Antonio that already face challenges from day to day, and 21 Austin restaurants participated providing free meals to residents on a first come, first served basis. Good Work Austin provided approximately 40,000 meals from 35 restaurants across 35 community sites. One of the participants in these efforts was Teresa Wilson, chef owner of Austin’s Sala & Betty.

“Both Good Work Austin and WCK were reaching out to her, but because she didn’t have internet as a result from the outages, she didn’t get the emails for a few days,” says her daughter and Sala & Betty’s general manager Diana Salazar. “She felt bad that she didn’t start helping right away, it’s been a big deal for her, thinking she should have done something sooner.” Over the next five days, however, the restaurant provided 500 to 700 meals a day, delivering to shelters, hospitals like Dell Children’s, churches and anywhere the organizers directed them to go.

Family-owned restaurant Sala & Betty provided hundreds of meals through Good Work Austin and WCK.

“Basically, we were just on call,” says Salazar. “And sometimes it would be like oh wow, we need 500 meals tomorrow. So, we’d call our employees and ask them to come help, show up and get it done. It’s been awesome, I feel good – we all do. Knowing that Chef José Andrés was here, and I could be a part of something with him was just awesome. I’m so proud of all of us, and my mom’s amazing.”

Good Work Austin founder and co-owner of Austin’s L’Oca D’Oro Adam Orman broke down during a live Instagram video when he stated that restaurants, not government agencies, had stepped up again to serve the community in times of need. Independent restaurants have been lobbying the federal government for assistance since the start of the pandemic.

Last night, the House of Representatives passed the American Rescue Plan of 2021. The legislation includes $25 billion towards a grant program for struggling independent restaurants and bars, bringing them another step closer to securing relief for businesses and protecting 11 million jobs. The Independent Restaurant Coalition urges everyone to call the senate at 202-224-3121 to ask they pass restaurant relief.

Actor and producer Eva Longoria, a San Antonio native, volunteers to deliver prepared meals in the … [+]

With logistics at a standstill and grocery stores scrambling to restock empty shelves, local hero H-E-B pledged to donate $1 million to support Texas food banks and continue to work with supplier partners to provide aid to neighbors most in need. The Texas-based chain works directly with food banks affiliated with Feeding Texas, a statewide nonprofit member of Feeding America, the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief organization.

H-E-B delivered 23 truckloads of food as well as nearly $100,000 prepared meals to food banks, working with its supplier partners to help meet the need. Zen Water and Florida-based Publix committed 10 truckloads of water each, distributed to Texas food banks last week. Another supplier partner, Proud Source Water, also committed a trailer load of water, bringing the total to 21 loads.

Thanks to its culture of giving, Texas-based grocery chain H-E-B is a huge contributor to the … [+]

In the spirit of Texans helping Texans, H-E-B also launched a donation campaign online and in all its stores across the state. Customers can contribute monetary donations at the register or by visiting heb.com/donate.

“As we emerge from the bitter cold, these donations come at a critical time to help our fellow Texans get back on their feet,” said Winell Herron, H-E-B Group Vice President of Public Affairs, Diversity and Environmental Affairs. “H-E-B is here for Texas, and we will do everything we can to support those in need across our great state.”

“I would love to not live during unprecedented times anymore,” says Parker. “The sad part of all of this is we’re doing the work that our government should be doing. It’s just showing a complete breakdown, our city and state are basically failing us, so it’s been amazing to me to see our community come together and help with all the shortcomings – it makes a stronger community. Until there’s a massive change, it’s just heartbreaking.”

I’m a Mexico City-born writer based in Austin, Texas covering dining, drinking and travel since 1999. I think globally, widely interested in local ingredients and

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