This Christmas and new year’s eve you can help people who lost their jobs or saw their reduced incomes have something to eat, and small businesses survive the crisis over the COVID-19 pandemic.
To help, simply go to eat in local anchors and restaurants that are part of a network committed to giving away meals to people who do not have the resources to pay for them.
The initiative is called Christmas Smiles, and is coordinated by people who for 12 years have been handing out food and hot drinks to family members waiting outside hospitals to report patients, street populations and earthquake victims in Mexico City.
Read: The food that brings us in at Christmas
Denisse Silva, who started with Christmas Smiles, says that 13 years ago, when her great-grandmother was admitted to a hospital in Mexico City on Christmas night, a group of people came to give them glasses of punch and sweet bread, a gesture she and her family greatly appreciated, so they decided to replicate it.
«We saw that I had potential because people from my family and friends were added. Soon it was no longer just coffee and we started making sandwiches and some more elaborate things. For the third edition it got bigger and we were able to cover more and more hospitals,» he says.
For three years now, they decided to expand the initiative and also go to give a Christmas dinner to people in a street situation, and in 2017 they included families who lost their home because of the stys.
However, this year, due to the pandemic, they had to change the support scheme. Instead of handing out food to the streets, they designed a platform for small food businesses to connect with people who need food, so that both groups are favored.
How does Christmas Smiles work?
Sharoon Negrete, a volunteer at the initiative, explains that the meals that restaurants will give away will be pre-paid by people who come directly to the premises, or through donations that receive Christmas Smiles and are distributed by the organizers among the businesses that sign up for the platform.
Enrolled businesses will appear on a map so that those who choose to go to consume and donate know where they are located and what they are.
Each restaurant will have a blackboard at the entrance becoming clear that meals are available for those who require them, and for each one they give away they will issue a receipt that will be delivered to Christmas Smiles to check the delivery of food.
Find out: Pandemic and Christmas: the stories of how affected by COVID will live on Christmas Eve
This will allow businesses to have secure food sales, reducing the risk of them closing in the face of red light restrictions in Mexico City, scheduled for at least until January 10.
The scheme was tested in the last month in some fondas of the Del Valle colony, and has worked. Business owners gladly agreed to have between 30 and 40 paid meals a week, to hand out to people who ask for money on the streets, and to approach their premises to ask to be given food.
Although initially, the idea arose in the United States, where Sharoon currently lives. Last May she and her husband lost their jobs and the apartment they lived in in Philadelphia caught fire.
Faced with their situation, Josh Kim, owner of the local Spot Burgers restaurant, helped them get a new place to rent and gave them food.
And because they were not the only ones affected by the pandemic crisis, he also set up a small supplier-priced product store, so that neighbors could purchase their products at lower cost than in other businesses.
According to Sharoon, these actions increased Spot Burgers’ clientele, because word spread that it is a solidarity business, so they expect a similar effect to occur in businesses participating in Christmas Smiles.
In addition to Mexico City, the initiative expects groups from other states in the country to decide to replicate the small business approach model with donors and people who need food.
To find out which businesses participate in Christmas Smiles and support them visit their website, where you can also register your restaurant, or contact the organizers, who are open to sharing information on how to set up a solidarity network in any other state of the country.
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