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OpenMeal Helps Feed Hungry and Helps Minority-Owned Businesses During COVID Pandmic

A group of Asian-American students are doing their part to help feed the hungry and to support minority owned businesses who are struggling during the pandemic.

Wichhica Nhim, who owns Combo A Chinese restaurant in Echo Park, says his business has suffered during the pandemic and he’s been the victim of anti-Asian racism.

“It’s sad to say, but I did get some nasty phone calls, people calling us and blaming us for the virus and whatnot,” he said.

Nhim says one of the things helping keep his business afloat is OpenMeal, an online non-profit that connects people who can’t afford food with minority owned restaurants in their community.

OpenMeal began last March by a group of predominantly Asian-American students who use donor funds to help people who were laid off during the pandemic get one free restaurant meal each week.

“It’s a platform where they can chose their own restaurant, their own meal, and the pick up time,” said Jeson Lee, the founder.

People who have lost their jobs can go to OpenMeal.org and with proof of unemployment can apply for a free meal and chose a restaurant menu item up to $20, a luxury that far too many are missing during the pandemic.

“What a lot of people don’t realize is when you go to a food bank or soup kitchen, while those things are helpful, it does drain you at some point,” said Amy Zhou, the OpenMeal communication and crowd funding lead.

OpenMeal has paid for more than 3,000 meals at two dozen restaurants in seven cities, including Combo A, Hanchic Korean restaurant, and Cilantro Lime in Los Angeles.

Owner Leo Matias says OpenMeal pays for at least a half dozen orders each day, business he otherwise wouldn’t get.

“Do that monthly … things like that is what’s going to help me save my restaurant,” he said.

USC student Kevin Su, who grew up working in his parent’s Chinese restaurant in Australia, says he loves helping other restaurants, and hopes OpenMeal inspires others to find ways they too can help.

“If you’re willing to take the first step, willing to take time to come up with a solution there are tons of things anybody can do to really help out the community,” he said.


Source: NBC Los Angeles

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