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A program created by the City of Las Cruces to provide meals to low-income residents during COVID-19 and to give an economic boost to local restaurants during the pandemic will continue at least through Feb. 28, and possibly longer.
With a voucher to a local restaurant, “someone who is low income or in financial distress can get a hot meal,” said city Housing and Neighborhood Services Manager Natalie Green. The program, she said, has “a secondary benefit of helping restaurants.”
The restaurant voucher program was started last year, after state public health orders closed restaurants and other businesses and caused job losses and economic hardship. A second round of the program began in December. The program could be extended for a third round, with approval from the Las Cruces City Council.
The program is funded with $182,000 from the city’s Telshor Facilities Fund, which is money the city receives from the lease of Memorial Medical Center. The city owns the hospital jointly with Doña Ana County. The council has authorized spending of more than $3 million for a variety of services to the community during the pandemic.
The city contracted with Families and Youth, Inc. nonprofit of Las Cruces to administer the voucher program, Green said.
The city issued 15,000 meal vouchers under the program, which FYI and other nonprofits have distributed to those in need. Each voucher is valued at $10, which can be used to purchase a single meal or as part of the purchase price of a more expensive meal at a participating restaurant, said FYI HIV/STI Services Coordinator Javier Garcia, who is administering the program.
Participating restaurants turn in the vouchers received to FYI, which then reimburses them, Garcia said. He said all available vouchers have been distributed and are being redeemed by the people who have them.
“The community has been very responsive,” Garcia said. “It’s a win-win for everybody.”
Working with the city on the program is “something that resonates with our mission,” Garcia said, which is “to promote a safer and healthier community.” It’s also been a way for FYI to partner with the city, locally owned restaurants and other nonprofits that are passionate about helping people, Garcia said.
The owner of one participating restaurant “grew up being poor,” Garcia said, “and knows what it is to be hungry.” Participating in the voucher program “is a good way to give back to the community.”
Garcia said restaurants participating in the second round of the voucher program are Dick’s Café, Pit Stop 292, Mix Pacific Rim, La Nueva Casita, New Mexico Spanish Kitchen, Chilitos, Boba Café, Cafecito Divino, Zia Café, Mother’s Place, Mariscos Boca Del Rio y Comida Mexicana and Chachi’s Mexican Restaurant.
Contact Green at 575-528-3086. Visit www.las-cruces.org and click on COVID-19 ALERTS at the top. Also visit www.fyinm.org.