Off the Grid Food Responders Program Comes to Contra Costa

(Courtesy of San Francisco'a Off the Grid)
Off The Grid is expanding their reach to Contra Costa County to help prepare for the upcoming fire season, by providing a chance for local food businesses to help their communities when they are in need.

    Often known as the “food truck guys,” San Francisco’s Off the Grid is branching out of its home to come to Contra Costa County and all over the state to help those in need.
    The group’s new Food Responder program intends to provide local support in Contra Costa, not only for the fire season but also for other natural disasters or unknown situations in the future. The program aims to be efficient and flexible to adapt to the ever-changing need of disaster relief.
    “We’re working with local businesses in Contra Costa County now because we want to help each local community prepare for the worst,” said Off The Grid Founder and CEO Matt Cohen in a press release. “When you’re in the midst of a crisis, you’re in panic mode. We want to help support local businesses, connecting as emergency resources well in advance of a developing crisis, so that they can deploy quickly to meet any need. Moreover, we’re working with these businesses to offer quality, delicious meals that can make someone affected by a natural disaster feel better – both physically and mentally.”
    Because this past winter was very dry, many portions of the state are in extreme droughts meaning vegetation is abnormally dry and capable of carrying high intensity fires, according to Moraga-Orinda Fire District Fire Chief David Winnacker.
    “While wildfire loss is dependent on many factors, the conditions are right for this to be a particularly bad year,” said Winnacker. “MOFD continues to participate in regional training and response plans and began our pre-season training early this year due to the early start of wildfires. We have also increased our fire code inspection efforts to ensure residents have done their part to create defensible space around their homes and property lines.”
    He explained a few ways Moraga and Orinda residents can protect their homes this fire season by keeping grass shorter than three inches, trimming decorative plantings, cleaning out gutters and removing dead or dying trees.
    Off The Grid, created in 2010, aims to bring street food creators together to allow “people to connect over a shared love of food and community,” according to its mission statement.
    The business serves as an event organizer for food trucks and small catering businesses to come together at regular food markets to share the passion for food within the San Francisco Bay Area. It operates in 20 Bay Area locations and holds routine events that serve more than 100,000 people weekly.
    With COVID-19 shutting the state down, including the group’s mobile markets, Off The Grid started focusing on other business models and giving new opportunities to their 300 diverse food creators.
    After the devastating fire season in 2017, where more than 1.5 million acres of land burned, the company decided to change things up to help the community.
    “We wanted to find a way that we could help small business owners and our fleet of food truck owners basically survive [during COVID-19],” said Ashleigh Bilodeaux, director of sales and marketing. “We found there was a huge need for people to get food, especially during COVID-19 and during last year’s terrible, terrible fire season.”
    During the pandemic, Off The Grid raised money through GoFundMe accounts and donations from community members to serve those in need. Now, funding comes through the group’s efforts creating partnerships with counties and the state.
    The company fed over a million individuals and drove more than $10 million back into local businesses during the pandemic, according to Bilodeaux.
    It’s looking to expand across the state and be the bridge between local, small businesses and their communities when they are in need.
    As fire season begins, Off The Grid is preparing for the worst while hoping for the best, according to Bilodeaux.
    “We have been speaking to the state of California and American Red Cross and identified some really high-risk counties that are unfortunately likely to have a fire during this fire season,” said Bilodeaux. “We pray that this is not the case, but one of the best things you can do to prepare for fire season is to do just that, to get ahead of it.”
    Plans include recruiting more than 200 food responders in more than 40 counties identified as likely to be hit the hardest during the fire season. Food Responders include restaurants, food truck operators, catering businesses and other food purveyors.
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