Spring

We are a small, undocumented family owned business and community space with deep ties in our neighborhoods, and we are people who believe and fight for a world where no human being is illegal, where there are open borders, families are not forcefully separated and our approach to harm in community is through restorative and transformative justice.

We are grounded on those beliefs and know what that can look like in our lives, as we run a business and sustain a space for our communities. These beliefs, practices, and politics do not go away for us at times of crisis, but are as important and crucial if we want to not only survive this pandemia but also build solidarity and be true in our efforts. 

Excerpt from La Morada statement about ending its relationship with World Central Kitchen.
A NOTE ON THE TALLIES
  • 2 lbs. hot meals: One hot meal prepared by La Morada (hot main dish + side + fruit) equals approximately two meals provided by the city through the GetFood NYC program. La Morada hot meal tallies can—and should—be multiplied by two to estimate the number of meals distributed according to the city measurements. La Morada was not a contractor nor participate in the GetFoodNYC or the “Grab and Go Meals” program by DSNY.
  • 20 lbs. grocery boxes: these boxes, put together by La Morada, weigh about 20lb. The boxes are distributed among Mott Haven families that are part of the Whatsapp group “Indígenas American Unidos.”
  • 30 lbs. USDA combo boxes: These boxes include fresh vegetables, dairy, meat, and nonperishable food and weigh 30 lb. USDA boxes begin to be distributed in The Bronx in January of 2021 (Brooklyn and Manhattan started receiving USDA Boxes in Summer 2020, thanks to the advocacy done by La Morada, Mutual Aid Folks, and the Public Advocate Office.
A NOTE ON ACCOUNTABILITY

La Morada denounces

Chef Andres, World Central Kitchen for profiting from disasters, Placing the immigrant community and vulnerable communities at risk by working closely with Homeland Security and Police Officers, serving police officers first in the food lines instead of people that are in need, using vulnerable moments for photo ops.

Brookfield Properties for causing mass displacement of Mott Haven Neighbors including small businesses through gentrification and gatekeeping food and much-needed resources during the COVID 19 Pandemic through nonprofit organizations and infiltrating mutual-aid groups.

RAP4BRONX (Relief Access Program for the Bronx), an initiative backed by real estate developers. RAP4Bronx is powered by the Skyline Charitable Foundation, a non-for-profit that is also behind Skyline Restoration. RAP4BRONX functions as a screen organization for real estate developers. Brookfield Properties works directly with them, as shown in RAP4Bronx website: “Produce Donation by Brookfield Properties and Imperfect Foods.”

Bronx Foundation, Mott Haven Bar and Grill, Beatstro, for constantly selling out the Mott Haven community by constantly aligning themselves with real estate developers, the corrupt Bronx Democratic Machine, and corporations.

Daniel Zauderer, Mott Haven Fridge, for creating an unsafe setting in Mott Haven and the Upper Manhattan and Bronx Fridge network by ignoring accountability and constantly involving and selling out Mott Haven and the Fridges to gentrifiers (like Rap4bx and Brookfield), and politicians. His willingness to post the líkenesses of fridge visitors on social media as well as fundraise utilizing the likenesses and efforts of other community fridge organizers without consent is duplicitous and endangers and exploits our community members. When community organizers called Daniel in for accountability and told him to stop misrepresenting himself with the labor and identities of our community members , his response was to harass them repeatedly and abusively. 

Ian Christner, Riverdale Senior Services/North West Food Justice Project / Police Liaison, for infiltrating the fridge network and being verbally violent and threatening towards women of color. He applied for and received $75,000 in funding to Riverdale Senior Services invoking the community fridge movement in his proposal without any consent from community fridge organizers, again like Daniel soliciting money for work that is not his. Also, he has displaced NYCHA tenants from control of their own community gardens and sought to further position himself as a gatekeeper to food and resources with his non for profit work. 

ALSO, FOLKS SHOULD NOT FORGET

  • Airlines got a bailout before restaurants did.
  • Most essential workers working in the food industry—i.e., in the frontlines—are undocumented.
  • In early 2021, dozens of undocumented food industry workers went on a hunger strike that lasted over 30 days. What does it mean to have to go on a hunger strike so you and your loved ones don’t have to experience hunger?
  • Like many nonprofits and NGO’s, having “exclusive rights” to represent a community is vital for their continual existence. Nonprofit administrations are increasingly adopting a Hunger Game mentality led by the DeVos Institute, which encourages funding large institutions as well as merging government funding, leaving smaller organizations/nonprofits to die out. These larger organizations then claim total representation of a community (which erases the multiplicities and diversities within communities) and forces marginalized communities to compete for resources and funding rather than work together to dismantle all interconnected oppression.

    Why NYC Mutual Aid Workers Are Cutting Ties with World Central Kitchen by North Bronx Collective

    SPRING 2020

    MAIN INGREDIENTS: fiddleheads, beans, rice, cabbage; Eggs (La Morada receives a big eggs donation); Herbal teas for volunteers—Holy basil, Sweetgrass, Nettles, Mugwort

    There is a shortage of ingredients and of meat in NYC, including in Hunts Point.

    To beat the shortage of food La Morada asks small farmers upstate to grow things for them. This is how La Morada Mutual Aid Kitchen begins to take shape. This initiative relies on both translocal and transcommunal collaboration and solidarities. 

    South Bronx Tenant Movement, Argenis Apolinario Photography 2020
    April 2020 Meal Count

    | 2 lbs. hot meals tally: 7,800

    Week 1: 0 meals

    Week 2: 0 meals

    Week 3: 600 meals

    Week 4: 3,600 meals

    Week 5: 3,600 meals

    Neighborhood, groups and organizations that receive/distribute hot meals: Mott Haven, Holyrood Church, MASA, Bronx Tenants Association, CCFY, Upbeat, home deliveries, volunteers.

    April 2020 Timeline

    La Morada partners with Word Central Kitchen (WCK). WCK sponsors a third of these meals, and pays La Morada $5 per meal.

    First week of April: La Morada closes its doors. “Whenever we would be open, it would be like 20% of our normal sales for the day,”  Marco Saavedra says in a news article: “As undocumented folks, we knew that we never really have safety nets. We won’t have Social Security when we retire […] We won’t, even though we pay our taxes … receive the $1,200 check.” 

    Yajaira Saavedra tries to apply to different state and federal grants to get aid so that the restaurant could stay afloat. However, La Morada is ineligible for most grants because of the Saavedras’s immigration status. A friend organizes a GofundMe for La Morada which raises over $45,000 in just a few days. 

    The Saavedras decide to give back to the community that is supporting them. They reopen La Morada as a soup kitchen.

    A group selfie: Marco, Yajaira, Carolina and Lila

    La Morada shares in a Facebook post: “Hey, many thanks for the solidarity. After almost a month of being closed, we have regained our full health and we are ready to continue working. With the GoFundMe campaign, [we] are able to meet this month’s operational expenses plus hazard salary for our employees. Our plans continue to be the same: community over profits. We are working closely with local activists, grassroots groups, and nonprofits on new projects to better serve our community. Please share our GoFundMe campaign and donate if you can this will help us stay afloat in the upcoming months. We will continue updating on our projects as soon as we can. Once more thank you.”

    April 16: The first day Thursday La Morada runs the soup kitchen, it serves a total of 128 free meals for neighbors in the South Bronx. Unfortunately, they run out of soup within the first two hours. 

    Starting the following week, they try to expand their efforts to be able to better serve their community. They partner up with World Central Kitchen. 

    April 18: La Morada donates free meals to families of Upbeat NYC, Community Connections for Youth (CCFY), and to a Bronx homeless shelter.

    Once they start delivering meals, they use the help of volunteers who drive to different locations or walk around the neighborhood with the meals packed on a red wagon. 

    In the beginning, it is students who do most of the groundwork. A few high school students who are on Spring Break volunteer. At any given time, there are at least 12 volunteers. 

    April 19: it is Lila’s birthday. The Saavedras take a trip upstate. They visit Highlands Falls Farmers, a small farm in Poughkeepsie, NY, owned by friends. The Saavedras ask them to grow things for their Mutual Aid Kitchen program. These friends involve other small farmers in the area, all partners of the Asian Vegetables CSA Farm Share, to collectively grow stuff for La Morada, and also to give “seconds”.

    April 27: La Morada writes on Facebook: “3,603 free meals served in the first week of us opening up. Sustain by mutual aid. #southbronx #Motthaven #bronx #soupkitchen community over profits. Thanks @wckitchen for sponsoring 1/3 of the meals served. Every little grain of rice counts.”

    Natalia Mendez at La Morada, photo by @Argenis Photo

    After La Morada opens the soup kitchen, Ghetto Gastro reaches out to offer their help. Since the Saavedras are working longer hours than before, their shoes worn-out faster (when you are standing on your feet all day long, shoes go flat, they don’t work anymore). Ghetto Gastro coordinates a Nike shoes donation—chef shoes for the whole team, because they have better grip. This is how Natalia gets her first Jordans!

    La Morada nominations and awards: 

    • NY Eats Award at Epicurean Award is won in April. 
    • Forbes 50 under 50: La Morada is one of the awardees, but there is no ceremony due to the pandemic. 
    • James Beard Award: nomination and award. The Gala also gets cancelled due to the pandemic. 

    The James Beard Award is the highest award a restaurant can receive in the world. La Morada applies for the American Classics Award. This is for a restaurant that has been open for more than 10 years, that has a community space, and is an important part of the community. James Beard is well connected to José Andres, the founder of World Central Kitchen.

    La Morada goes after José Andres in mid May: this may have hindered the possibility of them getting the James Beard Award. Meanwhile, the James Beard Foundation itself will come under fire for being discriminatory and racist—for their lack of diversity.

    Antonio Saavedra at La Morada, photo by @Argenis Photo

    May 2020 Meal Count

    | 2 lbs. hot meals tally: 25,200

    Week 1: 6,000 meals

    Week 2: 6,000 meals

    Week 3: 6,000 meals

    Week 4: 7,200 meals

    Neighborhood, groups, and organizations that receive/distribute hot meals: Holyrood Church, MASA, Bronx Tenants Association, Neighborhood Benches, CCFY, Upbeat, fridges, Padre Plaza, volunteers. 

    May 2020 Timeline

    Starting on May 4, La Morada begins to serve 1,000 meals per day, Monday through Saturday.

    La Morada also begins distributing grocery and produce along with their whole hot meals as part of their daily deliveries, because they start receiving donations from different collaborators—not only money, but also food and produce. This continues throughout the summer.

    May 1: Cuomo closes all schools for the remainder of the academic year. The following week, he extends the PAUSE order until June 6.

    The Saavedras realize they can’t keep sustaining the soup kitchen; at the same time, they see there is such a great need.

    Around this time, an organization in Queens tells them that WCK has contracts with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and ICE. Moreover, WCK has not been providing them with PPE, basic ingredients, and other supplies, as they have been doing with other partner restaurants. La Morada finds out about this because they have friends who work at other restaurants. Parallel to this, there is constant aid coming from different farmers from upstate. All these reasons lead La Morada to end their partnership with WCK on May 8, 2020. 

    May 8: La Morada publishes on Facebook:

    “We believe no human being is illegal. We believe in open borders. We believe families should not be forcefully separated. We believe in restorative and transformative justice. Because of our political differences, we have ended our collaboration with World Central Kitchen.”

    La Morada partners with Ghetto Gastro and with the New York City nonprofit Rethink Food to fight food insecurity in the community. They decide to join Rethink because of their non for profit status, so folks can donate to their Mutual Aid Kitchen more easily.

    Ghetto Gastro also does a fundraiser and provides funds to Rethink Food to support La Morada.

    We ask that folks always keep in mind their own role in helping communities in crisis who are in need, in ways that will empower people and not expose them. We ask that folks who work with WCK or other big organizations keep in mind that there are ways to hold them accountable and ask for transparency, especially when a lot of data from poor, working class, undocumented communities is being gathered and there’s no clarity on how it is being used and secured. Finally, resources can be distributed equitably and with the purpose of empowering people in their own communities to support one another and local businesses can do the labor of insisting these resources are fairly given and don’t put us in precarious, exploitative situations. There are ways to do this together, grounded on principles of true empowerment and social justice. 

    Excerpt from La Morada statement about ending its relationship with World Central Kitchen.

    May 20: La Morada posts on their status that someone has called Building Inspections and the NYPD on La Morada’s soup kitchen. “Eventful morning. Send good vibes, prayers, and strength to deal with retaliation”

    May 21: Eater publishes a news article about La Morada ending its partnership with World Central Kitchen.

    Screenshot of the article published in Eater on May 21, 2020.

    May 23: Cuomo allows gatherings of up to 10 people with social distancing. 

    Meanwhile, in the Bronx, there are not enough hospital beds, nor PPE supplies. And while it is mandatory for people to wear masks,there are no masks available. Neighbors send La Morada reusable masks so they can use them in their Mutual Aid. 

    Politicians begin campaigning. Different seats are opened in The Bronx. 

    Melissa Viverito, who volunteers in Mutual Aid programs, is running for City Council Chair. 

    La Morada is clear in their stance: they will not compromise with any politician, won’t endorse any politician, but yes, they will ask them to do the work. 

    The last week of May, La Morada starts biking. They receive a donation from Citi Bikes. 

    May 25: George Floyd, a 46-years old Black man, is killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis. Protests erupt in Minneapolis and in major cities across the United States. The movement for Black Lives remerges.

    May 27: U.S. COVID-19 deaths pass the 100,000 milestone.

    La Morada soup kitchen runs from Tuesdays to Fridays. Photo fetched from @lamoradanyc Instagram

    “By mid June we were just exhausted, we started to cut our days to four, from Tuesdays to Fridays, then Mondays and Sundays were prep days” . 

    Yajaira Saavedra.
    June 2020 Meal Count

    Week 1: 7,200 meals

    Week 2: 7,200 meals

    Week 3: 5,100 meals

    Week 4: 5,100 meals

    Neighborhood, groups, and organizations that receive/distribute hot meals: Holyrood Church, MASA, Bronx Tenants Association, Neighborhood Benches, CCFY, Upbeat, fridges, Padre Plaza, volunteers.  

    June 2020 Timeline

    Throughout June, volunteers do biking rounds. 

    June 2: a 5-day curfew imposed by Major De Blasio in response to the protests that erupt in New York City, begins. 

    La Morada publishes a post asking for more volunteers so they are able to do the rounds before the “dumb curfew” hits. The volunteers’ list grows to 30 volunteers for deliveries. 

    June 4: the NYPD represses and violates the constitutional right to peacefully assemble of three hundred civilians who gather and participate in a pacific demonstration in the South Bronx, in the context of the Black Lives Matters protests that emerge across the country after a Minneapolis policeman kills George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, on May 25. 

    A news article published by the Gothamist states, “Shannon Jones, the co-founder of Bronxites for NYPD Accountability, helped lead Thursday’s event as marchers snaked through the Patterson Houses — to widespread support from NYCHA residents. She made clear that protesters should not be subservient to police, but also told people they would respect the community. On Willis Avenue, she urged the group to stop in front of La Morada and pay tribute to owner Natalia Mendez (“Mama Morada”), who distributed free meals to neighbors throughout the pandemic.”

    Yajaira recalls: “La Morada was going to be a safe space on that day (June 4th). The Saavedras had prepared first aid supplies, food, water, etc. At one point, Jacob, a volunteer, came to La Morada to warn us that many police were at march. He used his bike as a shelter, to protect himself. Two La Morada volunteers were arrested on that day for being outside ‘pass the curfew time.’ One of them got their bike stolen.” 

    Two La Morada volunteers are arrested, even though essential workers are excluded from the curfew. Other delivery workers are also arrested during the days of the curfew

    June 7: Mott Haven Families starts to gather outside of the 40th Precinct, a police precinct with a documented and sustained history of violence, to denounce police brutality against South Bronx neighbors and also to demand answers about the hundreds of arrests NYPD made during the June 4 protests. Since then, they gather there every Sunday. 

    June 8: NYC begins the Phase 1 of reopening.

    On their Facebook page, La Morada posts a news article dated Sunday June 7, indicating Mayor DeBlasio “announced that the NYPD will no longer be involved in the enforcement of street-vending laws.” La Morada has been advocating for a long time in defense of the rights of street vendors, many of whom are undocumented.

    June 12: La Morada posts a photo that shows the restaurant’s painted sidewalk (Abolish polICE) along a message that reads:

    #RefugeesWelcome
    “It is our duty to fight for freedom”
    #abolishICE #abolishPolice
    Police and ICE are NOT
    #southbronx
    #motthaven
    #elbronx
    #thebronx

    June 22: NYC begins Phase 2 of reopening. 

    June 23: La Morada publishes this statement on FB and on Instagram: 

    “Folks, we don’t endorse any politicians because we believe that politicians should ALWAYS be in touch with the  local community they are trying to represent. We believe that it is our civic duty to ALWAYS hold politicians accountable. 

    We believe that local elections are really IMPORTANT and wish that someday undocumented folks like ourselves can vote in every election. TODAY we call on our community to carry our voices and GO OUT AND VOTE. We will provide you with free masks if you stop by La Morada. Just PLEASE VOTE but not for Trump loving Ruben Diaz (NO!) or cop loving Michael Blake (NO! NO!). 

    In solidarity.”

    June 24: NY, NJ and CT require travelers to self-quarantine for 14 days if traveling from hot spots.

    June 24: The Washington Post publishes a news piece about both La Morada and the North Bronx Collective ending their partnerships with World Central Kitchen.

    Washington Post coverage

    SPRING 2021

    MAIN INGREDIENTS: Mangos, Apples, Beets, Sweet Potatoes, Beef, Pork

    April 2021 Meal Count

    April 2021 | 2 lbs. hot meals tally: 10,400

    Week 1: 2,600 meals (650 per day, Tuesday to Friday)

    Week 2: 2,600 meals (650 per day, Tuesday to Friday)

    Week 3: 2,600 meals (650 per day, Tuesday to Friday)

    Week 4: 2,600 meals (650 per day, Tuesday to Friday)

    Neighborhood, groups and organizations that receive/distribute hot meals: Mott Haven, Holyrood Church, home deliveries, Neighborhoods Benches, volunteers, fridges (The Uptown Fridge, The Fridge Girls, and Community Fridges deliver and stock up fridges with meals prepared by La Morada). 

    | 20 lbs. grocery boxes tally: 0

    | 30 lbs. USDA boxes tally: 7,776 (144 pallets)

    Week 1: 1,944 (36 pallets)

    Week 2: 1,944 (36 pallets)

    Week 3: 1,944 (36 pallets)

    Week 4: 1,944 (36 pallets)

    Timeline by the seasons:

    Spring / Summer / Fall / Winter