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Bronx restaurant becomes soup kitchen to help community during pandemic

The family-run restaurant opened its doors to people in need in April

In spite of the challenges that restaurants have been facing during the coronavirus pandemic, this restaurant decided to lend a helping hand by becoming a soup kitchen.

La Morada, a Mexican restaurant in the Bronx, first opened in 2009 and has been recognized by the Michelin Guide for its authentic Oaxacan food.

In April, the family-run restaurant decided to open its doors to people in need, including the elderly, disabled, unemployed and those who aren’t able to cook.

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La Morada makes about 650 free meals a day through its soup kitchen while continuing to serve paying customers. 

Volunteers unload boxed meals prepared at La Morada, on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

Volunteers unload boxed meals prepared at La Morada, on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

“We always say that activism is our secret spice, so I feel like it was just very natural for us to serve the community with what we have,” co-owner Yajaira Saavedra, 32, said. “It also goes back to our Indigenous roots when we all pitched in, gathered small ingredients and made a big pot as a meal.”

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Early on in the pandemic, Saavedra and her parents -- who co-own the restaurant with her -- had to close La Morada for a month because the family suffered from coronavirus symptoms. 

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When they reopened, they decided to start the soup kitchen and made 200 soups to give away on their first day. 

Natalia Méndez cooks in the kitchen of La Morada, an award winning Mexican restaurant she co-owns with her family in South Bronx, Wednesday Oct. 28, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

Natalia Méndez cooks in the kitchen of La Morada, an award winning Mexican restaurant she co-owns with her family in South Bronx, Wednesday Oct. 28, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

The soups were gone within an hour.

“We realized the necessity was huge,” Saavedra’s mother, Natalia Méndez, said. “The next day, without thinking, we cooked double.”

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Even before the pandemic, La Morada took an active role in the community, by hosting a book exchange and naming a poet in residence. 

Now, La Morada operates its soup kitchen from Tuesday through Friday and does its prep work on Mondays. 

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Brooklyn nonprofit Rethink Food provides funds to the soup kitchen while volunteers and local organizations help distribute food and donate ingredients. 

“It is mostly the community pitching in and friends and allies just saying, ‘We are going to do this, we are going to fight together and survive,’” Saavedra said.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.