Local restaurateur donates 800 meals to Cerritos College students and community

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Daniel Suarez

More than 45 volunteers assisted in the distribution. The people receiving food were seen smiling, waving and complimenting the helpers.

Daniel Suarez Jr., Staff Writer

Hundreds of readily-prepared meals were distributed on Friday morning, May 1, in the Lot 10 parking area thanks to restaurant and catering business owner, Jay Bharat.

The food distribution was a collaboration between volunteers and several sponsors, including the Alumni Association, the Indo American Cultural Society of North America and the Artesia Chamber of Commerce, among others.

The event is a part of multiple efforts made by Cerritos College and partners to provide support in the midst of the deadly pandemic that has put the country on lockdown.

While organizers advertise primarily to students, all members of the community were able to drive up and receive free food.

Jay Bharat is the proprietor of three restaurants—two in Artesia and one in the Bay Area— along with a catering plant in Pico Rivera where his team prepared the donated food the day before.

His company has worked with community leaders throughout Southern California to perform distributions at hospitals and other locations in Los Angeles County.

Bharat originally immigrated to California from India and started his restaurant business in the 1980’s.

His intent was to create authentic village-style Indian food, “something that was being missed by the hundreds of Indians migrating to America.”

The food was delivered on a large refrigerated truck, where Bharat employees unloaded dozens of racks of packaged meal portions.

The volunteers took food from the racks and started filling plastic bags, each containing bean curry, vegetable korma, white rice pilaf and two rolls of bread.

According to Bharat, the ration was a balanced meal that could feed a family of four.

State and federal social distancing guidelines have prompted thousands of U.S. restaurants to close their dining rooms—or their entire businesses—which has had a significant effect on their bottom-line.

Bharat said that this is not a major concern of his.

“My bottom line has already been affected,” Bharat said. “But money is not something to worry about when people are hungry and need food.”

Helping orchestrate the event was Parimal Shah, who is a member of the Artesia Chamber of Commerce along with the Fundraising Campaign committee and the college’s Community Relations committee.

Shah brought Jay Bharat to college administrators, proposing a potential food drive.

According to executive director of the Cerritos College Foundation, Carol Krumbach, “Shah is always bringing new people to the school and he has been a tremendous partner.”

President of Cerritos College, Dr. Jose Fierro said that he had gone to the Pico Rivera plant with Carol Krumbach on Thursday: “When we spoke about the possibility of providing meals, Bharat did not hesitate, they immediately said ‘yes.’”

About 45 volunteers, made up of students, faculty and members of the alumni association, helped direct traffic and prepare the food portions for the cars.

ASCC student leaders and Cerritos College instructors said that community service is something they have always done.

“It keeps us connected and shows our community that we care,” ASCC Senator Sunny Saldana said. “We feel that as student leaders we have to set an example for those who might be feeling hopeless.”

Another volunteer and instructor, Dr. Linda Waldman, said that she likes to serve her community at least once a month, and encourages her students to do the same.

“I know my students are generally very voluntary and hard-working. It makes me happy to see that they’re caring about other people,” Waldman said.

Vanessa Avila, a Falcon who heard about the food drive from her professor in the Dental Hygiene Program, wanted organizers to know that she’s “very grateful that they’re doing this, this community needs that.”