This Windsor restaurant is helping families eat healthy during COVID-19

Chef John Alvarez prepared 40 free family meals with donated vegetables.

40 meals were prepared this week with some meals donated to shelters and food banks

John Alvarez also made an appearance on the second season of 'Chopped Canada.' (Chris Ensing/CBC)

The Grand Cantina in Ford City has shifted from a dine-in restaurant to a take-out menu, including dozens of items on offer for families who need healthy meals. 

Chef John Alvarez said it's been difficult for restaurants across Windsor-Essex ever since dine-in eateries were ordered to close or switch to take-out options to prevent the spread of coronavirus. 

"Times being tough as it is, as a small business owner we had to layoff 22 of our staff, so we're running on a skeleton crew of eight people," said Alvarez, who co-owns the Grand Cantina taqueria and F&B Walkerville restaurant alongside chef Rosemary Woods.

Both Alvarez and Woods have been delivering food themselves as they continue to look for ways to offer meals for people to buy, so they can keep staff employed.

"We're trying to stay alive as long as we can, with what we got," Alvarez said. 

Free, healthy meals for families

In addition to take-out, the Grand Cantina is also offering dozens of meals to families that might be having a hard time making ends meet because of the current pandemic. 

"We're really trying to stretch out as much as we can to serve the community," said Alvarez.

Alvarez and the team have been able to chop up fresh salads, soups and roasted vegetables with quinoa because of donations from places like Caesars Windsor, St. Clair College and Fresh Start Foods Canada.

He thinks each package could feed a family of four, with 40 of them ready to send out on Tuesday. 

"It's about trying to feed people who need help," said Alvarez, who has given some of the meals away to people in Ford City. 

"We're going to try to keep going as much as we can, especially with donations from other chefs, other companies, just trying feed whoever needs it."

New take-out option

Alvarez said they still operate as a business and are encouraged by people who have continued to support them by calling in orders for pick-up and drop-off. 

Watch chef John Alvarez talk about operating a restaurant during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Windsor restaurant helps families stay healthy during COVID-19

4 years ago
Duration 3:06
Featured VideoThe Grand Cantina's John Alvarez has prepared 40 free family meals with donated vegetables.

"Even today we're really busy taking orders for dinner," said Alvarez, who has been working nearly two weeks straight, 14 hours a day alongside co-owner Woods. 

"They're kind of shocked that I was making deliveries, but I'm doing what I can," he said. "It's about helping each other out at this time."