coronavirus

LA Bartenders Serve Food to Families in Need During Coronavirus Pandemic

Mel Castro @melhummel

Inside a Boyle Heights office, the work has transitioned from a bar consulting business to a food collection and delivery organization called "No Us Without You."

The cofounders of No Us Without You started by providing food for 17 families. That number has now grown to 200.

"We found ourselves growing frustrated with the lack of attention being paid to our brothers and sisters in the back of the house that are the heart and soul of the restaurants and bars we have made our living on for many years," said Othón Nolasco, a cofounder of @nouswithoutyou.

Nolasco is talking about the dishwashers, busboys, cooks and bar backs who are undocumented and therefore not eligible for any government help. The hospitality industry has been hit hard by the pandemic and it's estimated more than half of those who work in LA bars and restaurants are undocumented and aren't eligible for unemployment benefits.

"They pay into the system," Nolasco said. "Every paycheck they get taxed and they are not eligible for any of the benefits they pay for."

The work being done is not short term. The men say they will continue to help feed undocumented workers long after they return to work because that population will take longer to recover financially.

"If your rent is $1,400 a month and you don't pay rent for six months, how long is it going to take you to dig out of that hole once you actually get back to work?" Nolasco said.

With donations generated on their website and from local food suppliers, they're able to feed a family of four for a week with just $33.

It's an effort that has brought a sense of purpose for the men, who are now out of work themselves.

"It's a blessing," said Damian Diaz of No Us Without You. "It's a joy to be able to do that. When we see little kids getting so excited to come with their mom or their dad to get food, I just don't even know how it would be to be a father and have to look at your child and answer their question when they are hungry like, 'Where is the food?'"

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