Café Corazón and The Tamale Kitchen have joined forces to feed displaced restaurant industry workers on Wed., April 8 from noon to 2pm, at the Westport restaurant. The two Kansas City-based businesses launched a GoFundMe with a goal of raising $3,500 to provide up to 300 meals that include two chicken tamales with salsa verde, corn masa and a café con leche. The online campaign has raised more than $1,700 to date – enough to provide at least 100 meals and help support the staff at Café Corazón and Tamale Kitchen.

Additional funds raised toward the goal will be allocated toward future meals distributed in North Kansas City and at El Centro in Kansas City, Kansas.

Café Corazón, founded by Miel Castagna-Herrera and Curtis Herrera, opened in Westport last September. Their business closed temporarily during the pandemic.

‘We are primarily a coffee and yerba mate house,” says Miel Castagna-Herrera. “We started the business with the idea that we would connect with local organizations and businesses to provide our products and ingredients to keep our Latinx-inspired drinks and treats authentic.  If you have never had a tamale and a café de olla or Café con Leche for breakfast, you are missing a sublime experience.”

This week’s food event is an extension of an ongoing partnership. The owners of Café Corazón first met Becky Gripp, founder of The Tamale Kitchen, last fall at a Day of the Dead event at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Before opening, the café’s owners contacted Gripp about selling tamales at their coffee shop.

“I connected with Becky to see if we could kill two birds with one stone: Help a local nonprofit that employs immigrant women with living-wage jobs, and carry tamales in the shop so that our customers could experience the beauty of a tamale with coffee if they hadn't already,” Castagna-Herrera says. “We met and hashed out the plan to be the only store that carries the Tamale Kitchen tamales in Kansas City. We are so proud of our collaboration with them.”

Gripp founded The Tamale Kitchen in mid-2015 as a means to assist immigrant women from the predominantly Hispanic Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church in Northeast Kansas City. Working with Father Jason Koch, Gripp and local business leaders launched The Tamale Kitchen. Five women prepare handmade tamales at a community kitchen, sell their food and earn a living wage to support their families.

Open Belly podcast founder Danielle Lehman worked with Café Corazón to set up the restaurant industry event during the shutdown prompted by the pandemic.

“My biggest worry and heartache was making sure that my employees applied for unemployment and that the ladies at The Tamale Kitchen could continue working,” says Castagna-Herrera. “Without our weekly order of tamales, we knew that they would be under stress and need their jobs.”

Public response to the tamale and coffee event has been encouraging. “The outpouring of love and support from the community is amazing,” Castagna-Herrera says. “Through this, we will be able to support both The Tamale Kitchen and Café Corazón in hopes that we will both survive this time and be viable when it is over as well as providing a delicious and nourishing meal for those in need.”

“We wanted to keep the ladies at Tamale Kitchen working once the café closed,” Gripp adds. “This is a way to sustain production of tamales and coffee and give back to the community. We would like to do this event weekly in different parts of the city, but need funding.”

Funds may be donated online to support the campaign to feed local restaurant workers.

Café Corazón, 1721 Westport Road, Westport, Kansas City, 816.205.8010, cafecorazonkc.com