A Monroe High School graduate and disabled Navy veteran is doing his part to help those in need during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Kevin Inman is the heart, soul and chef behind Kevin’s Meals, a program he started with the support of his employers Patricia and Justin Garza to bring meals to quarantined senior disabled veterans in downtown San Diego, Calif. In just a few weeks, Kevin’s Meals has distributed more than 1,200 meals to 60 disabled vets, and Inman and his team have plans to expand to help even more people directly affected by COVID-19.
“It’s one of those things where I kind of feel myself that when the world is out of control, if you can just take a little bit of control,” Inman said. “Me, I’ve just got a kitchen here, and it’s something to do where I’m not sitting and watching the news all day.
“I’m just doing what I can.’
Inman acquired a passion for food while growing up in Monroe, where he worked for several years at the Monroe Diner before joining the Navy. He’s currently the kitchen manager at Park 734 Kitchen, a rental kitchen owned by the Garzas.
The idea for Kevin’s Meals came from Inman’s response to the generosity of his employers.
“On March 16, I got a call from Patricia and her husband, and they said ‘Kevin, they’re forcing all of this shutdown here in California and you need to go out and buy a month’s worth of groceries,'” Inman explained. “(We) got off of the phone, and ten minutes later, I get a wire and (they) wired me a month’s salary. I called (Patricia) back and thanked her, but I almost felt guilty because there are 35 other vets living in my (apartment) building and a lot of them, they’re at risk.”
Inman explained that a lot of his neighbors are fellow disabled veterans who are living on a meager pension at best. They rely on services such as the local senior centers for food, but those facilities were being closed down as California instituted a strict shelter-in-place policy to combat COVID- 19.
“Me and Patricia were talking on the phone, and she said ‘What can we do?'” Inman recalled. “I said ‘We have the kitchen, we have the know-how.’ I said ‘Let’s do meals right away.'” Within just a few days, Inman and the Garzas had already delivered their first meals.
“Provisioning ourselves was a challenge,” Inman explained. “We spent a day going out to different stores getting what we could, and within two days we were making meals … Through that whole weekend … these guys that (the veterans) relied on, even the social workers and their VA outreach workers, were unavailable. They still haven’t gotten their stuff together, they’ve started coming around and they’re working hard at it. It’s a heck of a job to do, but I mean they just weren’t prepared for it.
“We’re so fortunate that we got started as soon as we did.”
Inman hasn’t lacked willing volunteers eager to pitch in, but he said he’s unfortunately had to turn many of these good Samaritans away for the sake of keeping the kitchen and those who are already helping prepare meals safe from COVID-19.
People wishing to help are instead encouraged to donate to the Kevin’s Meals page on GoFundMe.com. Each meal costs $3 to make, and with Inman hoping to expand the program to feed the influx of medical personnel coming to the San Diego area to assist in combating the pandemic, every dollar counts.
Inman is also hoping to bring a little Monroe flavor to the meals he’s preparing. He’s specifically looking for recipes for two staples of the old Monroe Diner: the chicken and dumplings and the hot dog sauce.
“I’d like to provide these guys with a little hometown Monroe flare,” Inman said. “I’m not a trained chef, but we’ve come up with some really great meals. I’ve gotten a lot of help from some trained chefs that have just voluntarily come in…
“It’s been a great experience… There’s things you can do to help people out and still stay safe.”
For more information about Kevin’s Meals, visit Park734Kitchen.com.
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