Karla Flores loves to feed people. She’s been doing it since she was a youngster by her mother’s side growing up in Trujillo, a city in northwestern Peru, hard by the Pacific Ocean.
“You grow up learning to cook at a very young age,” said Flores, 47, the chef/owner/operator of the food truck Mikhuna. “I loved the ocean. I loved being close to the water.”
Flores left South America and moved to the United States because her parents wanted the family to have a better life. And after a stint as an engineer in the Merchant Marine — and then as a student collecting not one, not two, but three associate degrees from Long Beach City College — Flores open her food truck, featuring, what else, Peruvian cuisine.
“I started my business about four years ago,” she said. “In a food truck, you see a lot of people living on the street. It broke my heart. I was raised to always give back.”
Flores said she has wanted to help the less-fortunate and bring her truck to downtown Long Beach to feed as many people as she could. Now, with the help of the city, she has found a way to make her goal a reality.
In an event dubbed Long Beach’s first “Trucks-Giving,” more than a dozen food trucks from around Los Angeles County will serve free meals to people experiencing homelessness, and also sell meals to the general public, with proceeds benefiting the Mayor’s Fund to End Homelessness. The event is scheduled to take place from 5 to 8 p.m. next Thursday, Nov. 21, at the 14th Street Park, between Pacific and Chestnut avenues.
“This has been actually something I have wanted to cook up for some time,” Flores said. “It is our duty and our pleasure to support the most vulnerable among us in any way that we can. It is our hope that many other residents in the city will try to do the same.”
So how did she get approval from the city to start this event? Well, it doesn’t hurt having friends in high places.
A friend of Flores’s works at City Hall. She asked Isaac Romero, the mayor’s executive administrator, what it would take to get the city to back her up and bring trucks to feed the homeless. After a bit of brainstorming, the pair figured they could actually do this.
“All the gourmet trucks have a messaging board that we communicate through,” Flores said, “and they messaged back, ‘Karla we are down for doing this,’ I didn’t realize my colleagues felt the same way, but didn’t know how to do it.”
The First District City Council office also is sponsoring the event.
“We are extremely thankful to Karla and to all the food truck owners for their incredible generosity,” said Daniel Brezenoff, First District administrator in a news release. “I want to encourage everyone to come out and support this event. It’s a chance not only to help combat homelessness, but also to build community and good will — and enjoy a really great meal.”
Outreach workers from the city’s Multi Service Center and from Mental Health America Los Angeles will be present to assist people who may need services, and hygiene kits and articles of clothing will be provided to people who need them. There will be tables and chairs in the park, where people can enjoy their meals, and a DJ will provide music.
Flores has put together quite an array of food trucks.
“It’s going to be a little bit of everything,” she said. “We have some of the best falafel, some of the best Mexican trucks like LA Taco. We will have funnel cake, Italian ice, Thai-Mex fusion and barbecue.
“The bottom line, though, is we have a bunch of people who are doing what’s right for the less fortunate, that’s all we want,” Flores said. “Later on, the more people find out, with any luck, we can make it a yearly thing and other cities will do it.”
Free meal tickets for those experiencing homelessness will be distributed at local social service organizations. Tickets for the meals can be purchased for $7 at the event with cash, credit, or ATM card.
The Mayor’s Fund to End Homelessness is managed by the Long Beach Community Foundation and supports prevention and family reunification efforts.