SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) – The San Francisco food scene has been starved to death by the housing layout that has forced many restaurants to close or limit their menu to item removals. For most small businesses that are just getting started, their chances of survival are slim. A nonprofit in the Bay Area is looking for a tasty way to keep some of these businesses open.

In the kitchen at La Cocina SF in the city’s mission district, it is difficult for them to process food orders. Each product has been carefully crafted by a local restaurant owner such as Reyna Maldonado of La Guerrera’s Kitchen in Oakland.

“We have both meat options and vegan tamales options,” said Maldonado.

La Cocina is a non-profit organization that specializes in helping minorities and women get started in the grocery business.

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Since 2005 they have helped 70 active companies get started.

“There are 33 inpatient locations run by La Cocina graduates, all but one owned by a woman, all but one by a black person who had a low income on the program,” said Geetika Agrawal, program director for La Cocina.

When the city of San Francisco ordered residents to seek refuge, restaurants had two options of closing their doors or offering takeout. For many, these orders aren’t enough to keep the doors open, let alone pay people to do the work.

“I mean, it’s just a bloodbath as far as the industry goes,” said Agrawal. “It was really hard to see how quickly companies built so carefully, with so much hard work, that over 10, 15 years have passed.”

When La Cocina realized how dependent these companies are on their income, she devised a plan to help them pay their bills. An emergency fund was set up to settle bills and credit and grant management services were provided. They have also created community food boxes that change every week and contain all kinds of handmade foods and treats, chicken flutes, cake pops, momos, pozole, popcorn and tamales.

“We’re really trying to have a mix of entrepreneurs from every stage of our program and every type of kitchen,” said Agrawal.

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The proceeds from the emergency fund and the grocery boxes will go to the shops of La Cocina.

“They are able to provide some money for our family, it helps us pay our personal bills, some business expenses,” Maldonado said.

A limited number of grocery boxes are put up for sale every Saturday morning and picked up in La Cocina the following Friday. There are vegetable and omnivore boxes that sell for $ 80 to $ 150 each. Each box contains 10 items that can be frozen or served instantly.

The community’s food boxes are sold out, much to the delight of locals who picked them up.

“It’s great! Lots of places we’ve gone before and now we still get the same food,” said one customer.

“It’s just cool to do support stuff and get delicious, delicious food,” said another customer.

If you’re looking to purchase a community food box or contribute to the La Cocina emergency, click here to help.

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