‘Neighborhood Pop Up Grocery Program’ offers fresh produce, extra income for struggling restaurants

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Restaurants across the nation have struggled to stay open during the COVID-19 pandemic, but there are some programs aimed at helping them.

In Austin, that help comes in the form of ‘The Neighborhood Pop Up Grocery Program,” which drops off fresh produce to restaurants around the city, then allows them to sell the product for some extra cash.

“We are supporting local restaurants and local farmers, but most importantly we are producing good healthy produce at a low cost,” said Hallie Casey with the Sustainable Food Center, one of the groups that helped put the program together.

Nixta Taqueria is one of the 20 restaurants that is part of the program. For the past few months, owner Sara Mardanbigi had to shift operations to continue to stay open.

“For the past four months now we have pivoted to solely curbside,” said Mardanbigi.

Once a week, the restaurants receives a fresh shipment of vegetables.

“All the stuff we are getting is being picked within a day or two so it is all super fresh,” said chef Edgar Rico with Nixta Taqueria.

The program is funded through the City of Austin COVID-19 relief fund.

“We are really trying to utilize the money as best as we can and focusing on getting food back to the communities and getting money into restaurant pockets,” said Casey.

Mardanbigi says the produce boxes have been a hit with customers and she is thankful the city, along with Foodshed Investors and Sustainable Food Center, have given herself and others another source of income.

“They are providing the funding for the farmers, the farmers provide the produce, the produce goes to the restaurants and then the restaurants get to reap the benefits of the revenue,” said Mardanbigi.

Originally, the program was funded through the middle of June, but the City of Austin gave an extension through September 30.

There are 18 restaurants that offer the pre-packaged produce boxes, but two locations offer the vegetables individually.

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