The line around G&J Dairy Freeze in Umatilla on Tuesday was more than 20 people long. The patrons were waiting to pick up their lunches that were courtesy of the city during its first Tasty Tuesday.
The program, with the help of six local eateries, provided lunch for every citizen who wanted to participate. Tuesday morning, there were 2,000 orders, with more still coming in.
Esmeralda Horn, the city’s development and recreation coordinator, had two boxes of food in her car from Java Junkies, which was offering sandwiches and chips. She made stops at the Umatilla RV Park, several apartment complexes, and the weigh station, with a plenty more to go.
“This is fun,” she said. “I was raised in Umatilla. When I got hired by the city almost three years ago, it was the greatest day of my life. I wanted to give back. People are hungry, the stores are scary and people are laid off. There is no judgement here.”
City manager Dave Stockdale was the mastermind behind Tasty Tuesday, which came to life last Thursday.
“He came into my office and said, ‘Let’s feed our city,’ “ Horn said. “I said, ‘You are crazy.’ He said, ‘A little bit.’ He ran it through the city council, which approved it.”
Not only was the city feeding its residents, but it also was helping the local restaurants, which have seen business decline as much at 75 percent after governor Kate Brown restricted establishments to takeout only last week.
“Kids get a free lunch at the school, but sometimes it isn’t enough,” Horn said. “We thought we’d boost morale and help our businesses get some orders in. Help them and feed our community.”
No matter the tally, the city is picking up the check. City employees from all departments were making deliveries, while some people chose to pick up their own meals.
“We won’t let anyone go hungry,” Horn said.
Horn said there are 7,400 people in Umatilla, with 1,800 of those residing at Two River Correctional Institution.
Not everyone took advantage of the offer, but it was available to everyone, regardless of need.
Stockdale said 2,800 meals were served, providing more than $28,000 of economic help to area restaurants.
Each eatery had a limited menu of items that were available to order. GG’s Smokehouse and Catering only had pulled pork sandwiches, while the Acapulco Food Truck was offering burritos.
Rae’s Dayz Diner & Cakery had orders for 500 lunches, with the bacon cheeseburger topping the charts. Orders also came with fries, tots or chips. By noon, they had filled one-third of the orders, but there was no stopping until everyone had been fed.
“It’s been extremely nice to be busy,” Rae’s Dayz employee Terri Nobles said. “We had to lay off three people, and three people have had minimal work. I was one of the three laid off the past two weeks. It’s nice to be back.”
Just down the street at Donitas Tacos, owner Miguel Olivera said he is happy to have the business. His sales have been down 75% since the start of last week.
“When they came to us, we said yes,” Olivera said. “I have done at least 100 orders, and I have texts for a least 100 more.”