Vegan merchants sharing their bounty with community shelters

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An El Paso couple are providing homeless people and others in need with meals and educational services to promote plant-based living.

Roman and Adriana Wilcox, owners and operators of One Grub Community, are following a mission centered on giving back to their community where five percent of their sales and 100 percent of their tips go toward the purchase of healthy food for meals for people at non-federally funded shelters like Annunciation House, Villa Maria, The Opportunity Center and others.

“We needed to make sure that we are able to cook together and eat together,” Adriana Wilcox said. “I think that’s when you get the community involved and you’re able to get personal with them.”

El Paso couple Roman and Adriana Wilcox, at the Union Square Plaza Farmers’ Market, are owners of One Grub Community, which provides vegan food to the homeless. Photo credit: Jacqueline Aguirre

Through various “pay it forward” events and demonstrations of plant-based meals, the Wilcoxes keep the community involved.

Mayela Duran, housing coordinator for Rapid Rehousing for chronically homeless residents at The Opportunity Center said, last year’s holiday event featured a vegan pozole for the 25 participants who lived in the housing center.

“They were amazed that everything was fresh and that they could do that and it could taste that good,” Duran said.

Opportunity Center resident Michele Jackson was eager to try the two dishes.

“I was surprised, for vegan food- it was good,” she said.

One Grub Community’s vision is to make plant-based food accessible to everyone regardless of economic status. Homelessness in El Paso is a concern, she said.

Homelessness has increased by about 15 percent according to a recent Point-In-Time report by the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The Opportunity Center provides about 110,000 beds and more than 120,000 hot meals to the people who come to the shelter over the period of one year.

Of those meals One Grub Community provides, Duran is amazed by the vegan dishes brought to the event. “The participants were very happy, it just made their days so special,” she said.

One a recent weekend during the Union Square Plaza Farmers’ Market, featuring a vegan salpicon, roasted tomato soup, carrot cake with a cinnamon cream cheese frosting and their locally famous not’cho queso.

With their pay it forward jar front and center, the Wilcoxes spend most of their time handing people samples of their food and talking about the plant-based ingredients. Meanwhile, the funds in the jar collect. Averaging about 10 to 12 percent during Market hours, the Wilcoxes enjoy communicating with people who stop by.

“Someone has to taste (the food) and that’s how the conversation starts. We feed them and then we get to talk food and then our mission,” Adriana Wilcox said.

The Wilcoxes are preparing to expand on their initiative with a newly assembled team of advisory board members from the community and a commercial kitchen located on Arizona Avenue behind the Arizona Avenue Community Garden, they will open a set dining location and revamp the gardens on location to help their community.

“We’re trying to think of creative ways where we have an umbrella where everyone benefits and we’re trying to make sure that people who are underserved can partake and are included in that structure,” Adriana Wilcox said.

Following their quest in bringing the community together, Roman Wilcox said he hopes to have members of their surroundings join them as they cook, serve, dine and clean together while continuing their pay it forward initiative.

“The community should support each other, they should come together because someone who’s taking from the system will surely turn around and give back in time,” Roman Wilcox said.

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