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City of Houston launches new restaurant, meal assistance program

HOUSTON – The city of Houston has launched a new restaurant and meal assistance program.

City council approved the $2.2 million Houston Eats Restaurant Support program or H.E.R.S. to help local restaurants and provide up to 20,000 meals to individuals most affected by the pandemic.

The city partnered with Lemond Kitchen, a local catering company run by Merinda Martin and her husband.

Lemond Kitchen will be responsible for finding Houstonians in 31 zip codes identified with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s social vulnerability data.

The Zip codes for those in need include:

77003, 77004, 77009, 77011, 77012, 77016, 77020, 77021, 77022, 77026, 77028, 77029, 77033, 77036, 77040, 77045, 77051, 77053, 77060, 77071, 77072, 77074, 77076, 77078, 77081, 77087, 77088, 77091, 77093, 77099, and 77489.

The individuals in need must be senior citizens, high-risk and/or homebound adults, people with disabilities, families with children under the age of 18, low income or unemployed.

Martin was also tasked with finding 15 local businesses to help cook the meals.

“We reached out to companies like myself who are caters who have the capacity to produce about a thousand meals a day but we also wanted to make sure we got restaurants that may only be able to do 50 meals a day but that those  50 meals could be the difference between them paying their rent and paying their employees,” Martin said.

One of the restaurants selected is Dona Maria Mexican Café in Houston’s East end.

The small authentic Mexican restaurant has been in business for about 16-years but owners Anna and Juan Hernandez said 2020 has been tough on business.

“Since COVID started we’ve been closed almost 100 days,” Juan Hernandez said.

Dona Maria had agreed to provide about 200 meals a week and the program will pay them $10 a meal.

It’s extra income Anna Hernandez said will help pay the bills and allow her to reassure employees that everything will be OK.

“If you only knew how many tears we shared. I got such a wonderful staff,” Hernandez said.

Martin said starting next week they will begin setting up distribution sites.

If you want to know more about the distribution sites, whether you or a loved ones qualify, or for a list of businesses involved you can click here.