Fort Worth Chef Continues Passing Out Free Meals to Those in Need – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
Kevin Martinez, head chef at Tokyo Cafe in Fort Worth, is working at the grassroots level to distribute free meals to those in need. Photo credit: Walt Burns
Food banks and nonprofits are fighting hunger in North Texas.
But in the nine months of the pandemic, a grassroots effort in Fort Worth has distributed thousands of free meals to those in need. And the people behind it are the ones who were also in need.
“This whole experience was super humbling, as was the amount of people who gave when they didn’t have to,” said Kevin Martinez, organizer of the Free Food Care Packs.
Martinez is the head chef at Tokyo Cafe, where he has worked for more than a decade. He saw the industry and friends he loves make great success with the arrival of the pandemic.
“In March we actually had to make some tough decisions to fire some of our employees because of what went on,” he said.
Martinez worried and then did what he did best – fed her for free. Months later, he’s still feeding Fort Worth.
“We started just doing the service industry first just because you start with your own little micro-community first and then expand from there. From there we added first responders, front-line workers, and then it went to everyone “, he said .
Every Sunday, free food care packs are distributed to everyone in a designated location.
No questions asked.
“The only question you’ll get is, hey, how many do you want?” he said. “This is our 35th serving this Sunday. We actually made food north of 36,000 servings.”
The food consists of restaurant-quality dishes such as fresh bread from Great Harvest Bread Co. Fort Worth, fruit from Mibo Fresh Foods, smoked chicken from Smokeys BBQ & Diner, zuppa Toscana from Tokyo Cafe, salad from Black Cat Pizza Fort Worth or fried parmesan Asparagus and Granola Brownies from Club Reflection and Crunchy Girl Granola from Fort Worth. Standard Meat Company and Acre Distilling have provided product and donation support.
Most recently, nearly four dozen restaurants and food companies have participated in some way and on days when it was hot, cold, raining, and even hailing. “It’s very much a community. We really look forward to seeing each other every Sunday,” said Martinez.
You donate time and talent, even if many still have problems themselves. A Go Fund Me account raised some cash, but the majority come from members of the service industry.
“It really speaks to the character of all of these amazing people in our community. That’s not a must, that’s a – they wanted,” Martinez said.
“We’re all together that we don’t know what’s going to happen in the next few weeks, in the next few months, but as long as we can do it together, we’ll be fine,” said the cook.
The connection with others in his industry fills Martinez’s soul and the need he sees in others drives his passion to keep going.
“We just hope people can enjoy the food and forget about things a little,” he said. “Without trying to tear ourselves apart, we had some amazing things that people were willing to share with us on Sundays.”
It tells the story of the man who kept dropping by in a new pickup to get food. In the third week that he got free food, the man told his story. He was from Iowa and down town to care for his daughter who was about to end her cancer treatment.
“This is my rental vehicle down here,” the man told Martinez about the truck. “And since she is currently unable to cook for herself because she is too weak. And if I’m not there for a few weeks, she can heat it up.”
“That’s why you can’t judge why you can’t accept anything,” said Martinez. “We try to get full bellies and smile on people’s faces.”
There are two more free Food Care Pack Sundays on December 13th and 20th. The location is listed on the Tokyo Cafe’s Facebook page.