Free Burritos for Health Care's Front Lines

The coronavirus can take away our parks and our beaches, but our Mexican food? Never!

Bob Hansen

A North County coronavirus-fighting duo plans on feeding more than a thousand health care workers next week, shuttling hundreds of veggie and pollo asada burritos to the front lines of the fight against COVID-19.

Mark Wheeler, who owns Encinitas Ford, and his son, Clayton, who co-owns Casero Taqueria out in the Bressi Ranch neighborhood of Carlsbad, are teaming up to begin dropping the Baja-inspired bombs off on Monday at Tri-City Medical Center, in Oceanside; Scripps Encinitas; the UC San Diego Medical Center in La Jolla; and Sharp Memorial Hospital, which is also in La Jolla.

“My family and I have been brainstorming how we can contribute, and it was actually my mom who came up with the idea to combine forces with my dad’s company,” Clayton told NBC 7 on Thursday. “And so they’re making a large donation of food to first-responders and we are adding to that donation.”

Clayton said the choice of lucky recipients was a simple one to make.

“The people who are putting themselves in the line of fire right now need support themselves, and they don’t have time to go grab lunch – it’s one way we can give back to our communities that have supported us for so many years,” Clayton said.

Pitching in During the Pandemic: Stories of San Diegans Doing Good: Read more stories about San Diegans finding creative ways to lend support. Have you heard about a story we should share? Let us know

Clayton said that his new restaurant was still developing as a mature business when the stay-at-home orders hit.

“We didn’t have our takeout and delivery business ramped up where we could even cover those expenses,” Clayton said. “And so we closed temporarily and are hoping to reopen in early May in whatever landscape is offered to us, whether it’s takeout and delivery or normal operations.”

The 1,300-plus burritos will be built by Clayton’s team of seven. He estimates they can turn out three hundred every two hours, via an assembly line of sorts. They will then be handing them off to Mark’s staff, who will in turn transport them in – what else? – vehicles from Encinitas Ford, which is also donating labor in addition to the $10,000 for the burritos. Besides feeding hungry health-care workers, the project is also a way to provide some work for Casero’s employees, who have been furloughed since the taqueria was shuttered in mid-March.

And what does Clayton order when he’s on the other side of the counter?

“Being from Southern California, I will eat any burrito you put in front of me,” Clayton confessed.

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