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DSAL's Emergency Food Response in the face of COVID-19

Employee stacking columns of to-go food orders

"My focus was to find ways to keep working"

Tacos Uruapan has come a long way since it started out in 1984 as as a little taco truck in downtown Hayward. The business—named after the founder’s hometown in Mexico— soon became known for its fresh, authentic Mexican food and friendly service. The taqueria went through a major renovation in 1995, and since then the Solorio children, Antonio and Maricela, have successfully led the business. Their mother remains involved, too, making sure they stick to the traditional recipes—the “abuela” recipes — with original Mexican flavors.

The family-owned business was so successful that at the beginning of 2020, they had 26 employees. But then came COVID, and the subsequent shelter-in-place orders. “It was really a shock for us,” said Diana Godinez, General Manager, Tacos Uruapan, “Antonio is always worried about our employees and caring for them, so it was hard to know that we had to let them go. A lot of our employees have families. It was hard, but it was something we had to do because we couldn’t afford to have a full staff.”

The restaurant made careful staffing decisions, prioritizing those with families, though the staff that remained had their work cut out for them.

“We had to replan everything,” said Diana. “We put plastic on counters to protect our employees. We had to work on our delivery system, and we changed our to-go containers, being really careful with them. We had to switch the entire system.”

With so many people depending on the restaurant to stay in business, Diana scrambled to identify new opportunities.

“My focus was to find ways to keep working, to get new customers,” she said. “That’s when I heard about Hayward Promise.”

Finding ways to help

Hayward Promise, a nonprofit partnership dedicated to ensuring a healthy, thriving community in Hayward, had set up a food distribution program, and Tacos Uruapan participated by preparing and delivering meals for families in need in the South Hayward Corridor. But Diana wanted to do more. That’s when she received an email about DSAL’s Emergency Food Preparedness Grant program at the Dig Deep Farms Food Hub.

The Emergency Food Production grant program is a partnership between DSAL and ALL IN Alameda County, that provides grants to local food businesses to prepare up to meals for distribution to people impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The grant initiative was made possible through funding from the Stupski Foundation.

"My focus was on ways of getting work,” she said.“That’s when I applied for the opportunity to deliver lunches through DSAL’s emergency preparedness food program. The program allowed us to bring four more people to work,” Diana said.

“That’s something that makes me really proud and really happy to find this opportunity,” she said.

For Diana and Tacos Uruapan, delivering meals during the Covid crisis is about more than the food—or even the jobs–it’s about connecting to the community. “That’s one of the reasons I was excited when I got the news we were part of [the DSAL program],” she said.

“This is huge. We’re always involved in the community, working with the city and nonprofit organizations. We try our best to be involved.”

With over 30 years in business, the community connection can make all the difference. Diana says they hear from customers all the time.

“They say ‘we’re still going to support you, we love your food, want to support you guys.’ That is good to hear that from the customers, as a small business,” she said. “Big companies can afford to deal with the crisis, but it’s hard for small businesses, it’s hard to keep up with everything.”

Looking towards the future

Thanks to Emergency Food Preparedness Grants raised by DSAL and ALL IN Alameda County, Tacos Uruapan is helping to feed 1500 families, but what does the future hold for the family business?

“We have a patio, so we have already opened that part,” she said. “It’s hard to predict what will happen, but our priority is cleaning, disinfecting, and making sure our customers feel safe.”


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