When people are presented with challenges, some lose motivation but others thrive, like Mark Guzman, executive director and co-founder of MealsOnUsPDX. Founded in 2020, MealsOnUsPDX provides nutritious meals at no cost to those experiencing food insecurity within the Portland, Ore., community. At the time Guzman started the nonprofit, he had recently made the decision to become sober and shortly afterward, the pandemic started. Today, three years later, MealsOnUsPDX creates and distributes more than 2,300 meals per week! Guzman explains how he was able to find success both personally and professionally.
What inspired you to get into foodservice?
“I am a first-generation American. My mom and dad were born and raised in Mexico. Food has always been influential in every aspect of my life. I grew up in extreme poverty, so my family and I would always go to the food pantry or soup kitchen to stock up on food ingredients to make meals for ourselves.
When I was old enough to work, my sister got me a job at a restaurant that she was working at. I fell in love with food and that job because I knew that I would not have to worry about whether or not I would be able to eat that day, plus I was getting paid to work with amazing ingredients.”
What do you love about your business?
“I love many things about it. Creating amazing meals with my incredible teammates using mostly donated ingredients really pushes you to your creative limit. One of the positives of having such skilled teammates who are all former foodservice industry professionals is that we all come up with different ideas of how to take a random assortment of food items and turn it into something spectacular for anyone suffering from food insecurities.”
What’s the most interesting thing to happen to your business?
“One of the coolest things to happen to us was in the summer of 2021 in Portland, Ore. There was a massive heatwave throughout the city. We jumped into action to procure water, Gatorade, Powerade, snacks, coolers, fans, sunglasses, sunscreen and other essentials to distribute to anyone in need. The community rallied together and donated almost $20,000 in less than a week to our cause!”
What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome?
“Challenges are always around us. I started MealsOnUsPDX right before the pandemic, right around the same time I got sober from drugs and alcohol. To stay sober and focused on my new nonprofit, I poured all my energy, love and money into it to make sure we survived. We raised almost $30,000 in in a few weeks to save the commercial kitchens that we currently use to create our meals for anyone suffering from food insecurities.
Right now, currently, our biggest challenges are using the kitchen equipment in our kitchens. The ovens are temperamental. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. We can’t afford new ones right now, so we roll with what we have. It is a struggle sometimes.”
Which Cambro products help make your business work?
“We use all sizes of Cambro containers for food storage, especially 12qt, 18qt and 22qt containers, and the hot boxes and utensils.”
Location: Portland, Ore.
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