Undocumented immigrants hold a position in every single part of a restaurant’s assembly line. We are the ones who harvest the land, and grow, cook, serve, and deliver the food. Yet, we don’t have the same rights or privileges as any other famous chef or white Anglo-Saxon citizen. […]

I’m trying to work out how Shake Shack got a small business loan. I’m trying to work out how businesses less than a year old in the South Bronx that are established or partnered with wealthy developers were chosen to receive aid prior to other small, mostly immigrant-owned small businesses.

Yajaira Saavedra, in conversation with Marisel Salazar for Zagat.
  • 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.

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. 


  • 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?
  • SUMMER 2020

    Meals delivered on bikes

    MAIN INGREDIENTS: Apples, grapes, yellow squash and zucchini (in August), bell peppers (green and red), kale, chard. Also, a pig—a whole pig is donated to La Morada in early July. 

    July 2020 Meal Count

    2 lbs. hot meals tally: 14,400

    Week 1: 4,000 meals

    Week 2: 4,000 meals

    Week 3: 3,200 meals

    Week 4: 3,200 meals

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

    20 lbs. grocery boxes tally: 120

    Week 1: 30 boxes

    Week 2: 30 boxes

    Week 3: 30 boxes 

    Week 4: 30 boxes

    July 2020 Timeline

    Concerned about food waste, La Morada starts to compost outside of the restaurant (by the tree on the sidewalk). 

    July 2: La Morada receives a surprising donation from someone who lives in Vermont: a whole pig. The Saavedras cook the pork and post a photo on FB, inviting followers to caption the photo: 

    In July, Stone Barns workers start donating veggies to La Morada.

    This was an initiative devised by the employees themselves: any spare veggies, called ‘the seconds,’ usually go towards the workers; instead of taking the seconds, the workers decided to donate them to us, to La Morada. Besides the staff coming together to donate the ingredients, they also came together to cook on Mondays, under the lead of chef Chwan, who had been chef at Eleven Madison Park, and also at Bluehill.

    Yajaira Saavedra.

    La Morada participates in the One Fair Wage Campaign, an initiative in partnership with the Office of the Mayor in NYC (through the mayor’s fund to Advance NYC): the city commits to give up to 30K grants for payroll to selected restaurants, in the form of reimbursement (the city reimburses businesses for payroll). The catch is that everyone on payroll needs to make $20 an hour for the duration of the program: “During the grant period, restaurants must pay employees covered by the program at least $20 per hour. The $20 per hour will be reimbursed by the city, but additional wages, above $20, would be paid by the restaurant as would unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation and other legal obligations”. Full history here: 

    The 30K grant is used to cover payroll and to bring everybody to a fair pay hazard wage. The campaign lasts until the end of August, but La Morada continues paying their workers $20 per hour. “We are keeping the standard”, says Yajaira. 

    July 6: U.S. COVID-19 deaths surpasses 130,000; NYC begins Phase 3 of reopening, without indoor dining, and on July 19 begins Phase 4 of reopening, which still excludes malls, museums, and indoor dining/bars.

    July 8: Zagat publishes a testimonial piece by Yajaira Saavedra. There, Yajaira not only describes what opening and running La Morada as a mutual aid kitchen entails, but also condemns the lack of consistency and transparency of governmental funding.

    Screen shot of article published in Zagat.

    July 10: La Morada receives a donation of fresh produce from small farmers in Poughkeepsie, Applestone Meat Company. On their FB page, they write: “ Thank you @applestonemeat for providing us with enough proteins to continue running our soup kitchen.”

    July 17: La Morada receives a group of volunteers, the Summer Youth Team. 

    July 20: NY1 (Spectrum News) coverage of La Morada partnership with Rethink Food. 

    July 24: NYC reports 227,517 COVID-19 cases and 22,934 deaths to date.

    July 24: Natalia prepares a meal comprising quelites, Swiss chard, amaranth greens, and squash, with rice, and homemade spicy salsa Macha. This is a vegan option for La Morada soup kitchen. 

    July 27: La Morada participates in a series of zoom events, Organizing Owners In Hospitality, organized by the Food Issues Group FIG @foodissuesgroup, “Accountability and Undocumented Labor

    Flyer of “Accountability and Undocumented Labor,” a conversation to organize owners in hospitality
    August 2020 Meal Count

    2 lbs. hot meals tally: 12,200

    Week 1: 2,700 meals

    Week 2: 2,700 meals

    Week 3: 3,400 meals

    Week 4: 3,400 meals

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

    20 lbs. grocery boxes tally: 120

    Week 1: 30 boxes

    Week 2: 30 boxes

    Week 3: 30 boxes 

    Week 4: 30 boxes

    August 2020 Timeline

    August 4: NYC’s health commissioner, Dr. Oxiris Barbot, resigned after voicing “deep disappointment” with de Blasio’s handling of the pandemic.

    August 5: Yajaira co-hosts the National Agenda for Street Vendor Justice, an event co-organized by the Street Vendor Project, The Los Angeles Street Vendors Campaign, La Morada and Many Languages One Voice. People get to hear street vendors share their stories and learn about their demands for justice. 

    Part of the reason the National Agenda for Street Vendor Justice hold this event is to respond to the recent increase in violence against street vendors across the country, to address that perpetrators of violence are also the cities we live in, where they refuse to include vendors in the formal economy, or in any recovery plans.

    Yajaira Saavedra

    August 10: The David Prize announces Marco Saavedra is one of their finalists. 

    “Marco is a member of the Dream 9, a group of nine young undocumented activists who walked from Mexico to the United States border to demand to be let in and granted asylum in 2013. Now he’s organizing in the South Bronx to benefit other immigrants, using his family’s restaurant La Morada as base camp for a community response team and gatherings to share knowledge and tools to fight ICE raids. The restaurant has become a true sanctuary space where undocumented people, families and allies can share, learn and eat.”

    August 12: La Morada partners with Eleven Madison Park to serve tacos to inspire mutual aid to New Yorkers through food. Chef Natalia visits the restaurant to prepare the barcacoa tacos there.

    August 13-14: A Facebook post announces, “EVENT ALERT! La Morada and @elevenmadisonpark are serving tacos to inspire mutual aid to New Yorkers through food.

    New York’s Oaxacan kitchen master, Natalia Mendez will be joined by the legendary Chef @danielhumm to bring you the most epic barbacoa tacos. SERVING THIS THURSDAY AND FRIDAY FROM 11:30AM- 1:30PM outside Through fundraising, we will continue our daily efforts in providing thousands of home-cooked meals and expand this effort by acquiring much-needed kitchen equipment for La Morada. This event is in collaboration and made possible by our friends at ZEVV, Rethink Food, EMP, our volunteers and our followers like you!”

    August 17: the Heritage Radio Network aired the program “Community before Country,” an interview with Carolina Saavedra. 

    August 22: Marco participates in the series “Food Is A Weapon,” inspired by David Prize Advisor and New Yorker Jon Gray of Ghetto Gastro. The series includes a public free screening of The Infiltrators, the 2019 award winning film about undocumented youth activists, including Marco, who were intentionally detained to infiltrate a for-profit detention center and tell the story from the inside. The same day, Marco and La Morada also participate in an Instagram live event along @ghettogastro  

    Chef Natalia in front of EMP photo by @argenisphoto

    September 2020 Meal Count

    2 lbs. hot meals tally: 12,600 

    Week 1: 3,250 meals

    Week 2: 3,250 meals

    Week 3: 3,050 meals

    Week 4: 3,050 meals

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

    La Morada cuts most of their delivery routes (biking routes and walking routes) and relies more on community fridges. 

    20 lbs. grocery boxes tally: 155

    Week 1: 30 boxes

    Week 2: 30 boxes

    Week 3: 30 boxes 

    Week 4: 65 boxes

    September 2020 Timeline

    The city starts shutting down again. By now, community fridges are becoming more popular, they open all around the city. WCK abandons the city and communities like The Bronx. La Morada partners with local groups that open pop up distribution sites. This is why we lower down the number of daily home deliveries. Now folks can go directly to a distribution site or community fridge in their neighborhood. Still, La Morada continues honoring a small number of folks who can’t leave their houses (20 houses per day), about 4 to 8 people per household.Yajaira Saavedra.

    September 2: Gyms in NYC reopen, but indoor group workouts and pools stay closed.

    September 3: a group of essential workers helps the Barbacoa Taco Truck Fundraiser. The event is a complete success. La Morada raises a bit over 5K in 2 days. All funds raised are used to continue running the free meals program in the South Bronx. The Tortilla Team males 3,000 tortillas by hand.about:blankEmbed URk

    September 9: Malls in NYC reopen at 50% capacity with no indoor dining; casinos reopen across NYS at 25% capacity.

    September 13: La Morada unveils their new Mutual Aid Kitchen logo.

    La Morada Restaurant
    La Morada BX Mutual Aid Kitchen logo

    September 16: Mayor Bill De Blasio furloughs his City Hall staff, including himself.

    September 21: Pre-K and advanced special-needs classes begin in-person learning in NYC. 

    September 27: The union representing NYC principals and school administrators delivers a unanimous “no confidence” vote, a few days before students are set to return to schools. 

    September 29: Elementary students returned to public school classrooms across NYC.

    September 30: Indoor dining in NYC resumes with a 25% occupancy limit.

    September 30: Human Rights Watch releases a report that describes the several instances of systemic police brutality on June 4. La Morada workers and volunteers, as well as hundreds of neighbors in the South Bronx, are the direct victims of the extreme violence that the NYPD exerted on protesters on that day. Yajaira participates as a witness, giving her testimony for the report.

    From the report: “Yajaira Saavedra, whose family owns La Morada restaurant, a safe haven for activists in Mott Haven, told Human Rights Watch that the protest on June 4 showed ‘the solidarity in our community because we are just fed up with police brutality and injustice and lack of accountability.'”

    Timeline by the seasons:

    Spring / Summer / Fall / Winter