When the coronavirus pandemic first forced the community into their homes over three months ago, one Turlock resident took it upon herself to help ensure the city’s restaurants would survive. Thanks to the creation of a Facebook page called Turlock To Go, foodies throughout town and surrounding communities have connected with each other while promoting local businesses.
California and states throughout the country were first put under strict shelter-in-place orders in an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19 back in mid-March — measures that also prohibited restaurants from serving customers inside of their establishments, instead requiring the businesses to only offer curbside pickup or delivery of meals. While some eateries closed altogether, many opted to completely modify their businesses into a “to go” operation, switching to smaller menus, offering family-sized meals, featuring daily specials and providing other creative meal ideas, like take-and-make pizzas or cookie decorating packages.
When she thought of the idea for a Facebook page, Turlock resident Kadi Ingram-Porter was having trouble keeping up with customer needs as a sales representative in the wine and spirits industry. Restaurants were no longer just trying to survive a week or two — they now had to find a way to make ends meet for as long as the shelter in place order lasted, which ended up being until the end of May. As for consumers, Ingram-Porter noticed people were tired of cooking and began posting their “to go” meals on social media. Soon enough, the Turlock To Go Facebook group was born.
“With Facebook algorithms, it was difficult to see what posts were current and I kept thinking how nice it would be to have one place with all of the information. I decided to create Turlock To Go to be the place. I wanted it to be a place where restaurants could post their hours, menus and specials and a place where the community could go for all of this information,” Ingram-Porter said. “It is important to me that this page is for all to go services in Turlock (and nearby surrounding areas) and supports the community as a whole. It is my first priority that it is a positive page.”
Since the Facebook group was created on March 24, it has amassed nearly 10,000 members — a majority of whom utilize the virtual space to post photos from restaurants that are open, share special deals with each other and discover new places to dine that they didn’t know of before.
“My routine was the same until I was added to this group. I intended on cooking at home more, but have eaten out a little more often to support these small businesses,” Brianna Perez said in April. “I’ve learned of so many small businesses that I wouldn’t have otherwise heard of, so I try a few times to order to go from new places to support these businesses! I also love it because people post photos, which entices me to go try a new place.”
For others, Turlock To Go offered a sense of escape while they were confined to their homes.
“We feel it puts money back into the local businesses, but really it gives us a sense of normalcy. We look forward to getting in the car and making that drive around our town we love so much,” Sandra Avila said. “This group is a great source of info of restaurants we would have never known about. It really is the highlight of our week.”
While there is currently no evidence of food being associated with COVID-19 transmission, according to the Center for Disease Control, there is always the possibility that the virus could be ingested through inadequate hand washing on the restaurant’s end. Restaurants have long been required to follow food safety rules, though, in addition to extra measures now put in place due to COVID-19. Those who choose to order from restaurants during the pandemic should follow CDC guidelines of maintaining spatial distance when picking up their food, whether curbside or at their front door.
No matter how Turlockers choose to support their favorite eateries or grocery stores, for those who eat at home, there’s one thing they have in common, Ingram-Porter said — their love of food.
“Food is one of the few things we have left during a time when we can no longer engage in so many of our usual activities. Food has always brought people together, even now, when we can’t really be together,” Ingram-Porter said.
Thanks to the Turlock To Go group’s success, she’s also started pages for Modesto and Oakdale. She hopes that the pages can help business owners increase their takeout orders and stay afloat during the crisis, as well as learn from each other and cheer each other on.
Michelle Peterson of Dust Bowl Brewing Company offered a heartfelt “thank you” to Ingram-Porter for creating the Facebook group.
“What a wonderful reflection on our caring community!” Peterson said. “It’s a platform that’s not only informative, it’s bringing families and businesses together in a very personal, authentic way.”
Since stay-at-home orders were lifted and restaurants received the go-ahead to offer dine-in services once more, the Turlock To Go page is now called Turlock To Go and Dine In. This allows those whose dining rooms are now open to advertise that they are while still allowing businesses who are still hesitant to open the opportunity to promote their businesses as well.
For Ingram-Porter, seeing the community come together to help local eateries no matter the circumstances has been inspiring.
“I am so happy to hear that Turlock To Go has helped so many businesses during this difficult time. I have enjoyed watching the progression of this group,” she said. “It has been fun to watch more and more restaurants reopen for both to go and dine in, to see the creativity in the specials and meals that they have offered and it’s been very exciting to see brand new businesses open successfully during this time.”