Few takers for San Diego restaurant's free meals

Posted at 3:26 PM, Jan 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-21 21:21:53-05

SAN DIEGO -- A San Diego restaurant offering free meals to those impacted by the pandemic is struggling to find many takers.

San Diegans can stop by Breakfast Republic's Mission Valley location between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily for a free prepared meal, no questions asked.

The restaurant made the same offer when the pandemic hit in the spring, giving out 100 to 200 meals per day. This time, owner Johan Engman says the restaurant is lucky to give away 20 in a single day, despite the latest shutdown order.

"We obviously got the word out last time and I think for the second go-around maybe it would even be better, but frankly it's significantly worse," Engman said. "Unfortunately, we find ourselves throwing away food at times."

It's not that San Diegans don't need the free food. In fact, the San Diego Food Bank says it is seeing record demand. Vanessa Ruiz, the bank's vice president of operations, said the difference with this latest shutdown time could be that San Diegans now know how to navigate services.

"They know that they can go to the San Diego Food Bank's website and search for distribution in their neighborhoods at the times they are available, " she said. "They know they can call 2-1-1 San Diego and also look at based on their ZIP code a five, 10, 20 mile radius of where they can access food distribution."

Engman said Breakfast Republic will continue to offer the meals, which include chicken, meat loaf and lasagna. The restaurant's nonprofit arm bought 6,400 meals for San Diegans the first time around, totaling $52,000 worth. Engman said it has about the capacity to provide that many again this time.