Café Madeleine owner Christine Perez kept her cafe open with government help and paid for it up front by serving free meals to seniors as part of her Great Plates Delivered program.
FEMA funding has kept dozens of San Diego businesses open during the pandemic.
“We were fortunate to keep the restaurant open and the employees at work. I think we’ve come into contact with a people of San Diego that we don’t see often in coffee shops, and it would be nice to give to them and give back to the community, ”Perez explained.
The Great Plates Delivered program helped seniors whose income was too high for some programs, but who had difficulty getting to the store or restaurant. Marigold Hernly, 79, was the perfect candidate as she suffers from an infection on her feet which makes shopping difficult.
“It makes it worse,” Hernly said. “I have to stay up.”
Hernly said the program “was a gift from God. It was truly a gift from God.”
But that FEMA-funded giveaway that provided three free meals a day ended on July 9.
County officials say there are other options available for seniors of all income levels, but Hernly wonders if her health improvement will continue with the other programs after what her doctor said during a recent visit.
“He says, ‘Your protein level hasn’t been this high in 10 years.’ I said it helps at all levels, the program is, “she explained.
Although the program appears to have helped Hernly’s health, Perez said the program gives its employees a special connection to some of the hundreds of seniors they serve..
“We started to think of them as family,” she said.
Great Plates Delivered helped close the gap, serving people whose incomes were too high to qualify for other programs.
In a statement, FEMA said that because California removed almost all restrictions, it decided to make July 9 its last extension. “The state will be required to justify how eligible populations remain food insecure given the high vaccination rate,” the statement said in part.
The state issued a statement saying “local nonprofit and government social service organizations may review the FEMA-funded emergency food and shelter program to complement and expand on-going efforts.”
The owner of Café Madeleine now wishes to pursue a similar program in public or private partnership.