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On Wednesday, a food truck became a drive-thru and Taco Tuesday became Taco Wednesday, and none of it cost a dime to the partakers.

To help those facing financial hardships because of the new coronavirus shutdowns, Kogi Korean BBQ, a Korean-Mexican taco truck chain, gave out 300 free taco lunches in the parking lot of the San Gabriel Mission Playhouse.

But the operation had to respect social distancing. Here’s how it worked:

The parking lot was filled with two lines of cars, where Kogi staff implemented a drive-thru system for guess to pick up their food. As each car inched forward, staff members wearing gloves and a mask would walk up to the cars and take their orders, asking guests if they preferred meat or vegetarian tacos.

A meat plate came with three tacos, one each of pork, short rib and chicken. A vegetarian plate came with three tofu tacos.

Staff members then placed the order on each car’s windshield. Guests would drive up to the Kogi truck where staff member Juan Moran would hand them their tacos and some water bottles.

There was also a pedestrian line where guests could walk up in person. Neon green tape on the ground separated each guest by 6 feet.

“It makes me feel confident moving forward,” 22-year-old Alex Hernandez said in reference to how touched he was that Kogi was giving back to its own community. “This is the heart and soul of the food scene in L.A.”

The free lunches came courtesy of OneRepublic lead singer Ryan Tedder, his wife Genevieve and the rest of the band. Kogi’s chief chef Roy Choi, a longtime friend of Tedder’s, said the performer reached out and said he not only wanted to help out the local community but small businesses as well.

“There’s a lot of things Ryan and OneRepublic do that they don’t get any credit for,” Choi said. “This was important for us to mention him because it maybe it will inspire other celebrities and musicians and artists and people with the resources to donate, not only to Kogi, but to other small businesses.”

Before Tedder’s donation, Kogi was already trying to help the community out as much as it could.

“This is something we were already doing with our own funds and resources, but those resources can only go so far,” Choi said. “We break even on the whole thing, we don’t make any money. Everything is about feeding and giving our staff a job.”

And for Choi, he says giving out free tacos isn’t necessarily about giving back. Rather, it’s about fulfilling a purpose to help those who can’t stay home during this pandemic.

“Maybe we couldn’t see it so deeply before because the pressure of a world crisis wasn’t on the shoulders of the human race,” Choi said. “But now that it is, it’s not something that you feel like you have to do or that you have to give back; it’s about, ‘This is what your purpose is.’”

Raymond Guzman, 40, works at a local market, so he can’t be at home all the time. To him, Choi is fulfilling a need.

“Someone like him feels the conviction to facilitate help,” Guzman said.

Today in San Gabriel, Kogi taco truck gives out 300 free meals amid coronavirus crisis – San Gabriel Valley Tribune
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