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1st Latino CEO of Mama's Kitchen retires after 21 years

Mama's Kitchen first latino CEO retires after 21 years
Posted at 5:28 PM, Oct 10, 2023

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Alberto Cortes became the first Latino CEO of Mama’s Kitchen in 2002. ABC 10News sat down with him to discuss his experience, but if you ask him for a job description, he’ll give you a humble response.

“I don’t feel like I'm in charge of anything," Cortes says.

Under his leadership, Mama’s Kitchen became the largest nonprofit to provide free home-delivered meals in San Diego County. It’s also the only one that specifically tailors meals for clients with chronic illnesses, like cancer and diabetes.

“Is there one experience in particular that sticks out to you?” 10News reporter Perla Shaheen asked.

“I was delivering food to a gentleman, and I took the food up to him and gave him his birthday cake and wished him a happy birthday, and he started bawling," Cortes said. "Nobody had remembered his birthday. That’s the intangible aspect of the work we do.”

Cortes is a U.S. Navy veteran who moved to San Diego from Puerto Rico in the 1980s. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, he says it was the AIDS epidemic that inspired him to start working for Mama’s Kitchen.

“When I was hired in 2002, Mama’s Kitchen mission was exclusively to address the nutritional needs of people with HIV,” he says. “Over the years, the organization’s made a difference in so many peoples lives. The impact goes beyond the nutritional value.”

During the pandemic, the nonprofit nearly doubled the number of people it served. Now, Mama’s Kitchen delivers food twice a week to around 715 clients. This is the legacy Cortes will leave behind once he officially retires in January.

“I’m confident they will find somebody half my age with a lot of energy who will take this organization to the next level,” Cortes says.