By Robert Maharry, Courtesy of The Times Republican
When Alfonso Medina made the decision to return to his hometown and reopen his parents’ restaurant, La Carreta, he knew he wanted the mission of the business to go beyond dollars and cents and toward something greater — a long-term investment in the Marshalltown community.
“In a sense, (I wanted it to) be a place where the community would get a rebate here and there, and find creative ways to do so,” he said.
In a recent example of the “rebate” mentality Medina has attempted to live by, he, his wife Vanessa Perez and his business partner Arturo Mujica came together to pay off $5,000 in school lunch debt within the Marshalltown Community School District (MCSD). The contribution was a joint venture between La Carreta, Medina’s nonprofit No Love, No Tacos and A&A Concrete, his new joint venture with Mujica.
In 2019, Medina made a donation to reduce lunch debt at Miller Middle School and Marshalltown High School, and last year, the nonprofit funds were used to provide scholarships to Marshalltown Community College after No Love, No Tacos launched in 2020.
“The Marshalltown Community School District is grateful for the continued generosity of Alfonso and Vanessa. They know the importance and value of giving back to our community and helping families most in need. They are tremendous role models for our community,” MCSD Superintendent Theron Schutte said.
Medina credits a 2012 documentary called “A Place at the Table,” which is available to be viewed on YouTube, with opening his eyes to the struggles of food insecurity in the U.S. Currently, between 12 and 13 million American children are considered to be living in food insecure households.
“I’m a firm believer that this is probably one of the greatest countries on the planet, and I don’t think there should be such a thing as having food insecurity,” he said. “Humans, we can live without shelter. We can live without clothing, but not without food. Food is the number one thing we need to survive, so that’s why we chose to put our money this year towards that.”
Because of his family’s success, Medina has never personally experienced food insecurity, but his message is that it shouldn’t matter.
“The real change comes from people that are sometimes on the outside and can, for a second, just put themselves in their shoes, and just use their imagination and help out and actually make a change,” Medina said.
Despite the plethora of Mexican food options in town, La Carreta has found its lane and continued to thrive since its rebirth, and Medina sees donations like this one as a Christmas gift to the community that has been so instrumental to his success. He also hopes that it will encourage more of Marshalltown’s small business owners to get involved in philanthropic efforts even if they don’t have multimillion dollar budgets.
“It’s a very close-knit community, and hopefully this inspires others to do the same. I just want to let people know that this is thanks to them,” Medina said. “This is just a space that sells food. We open up, you come here and we’ll find a way to put it back directly into their pockets or where we think it’s much needed.”
T-R PHOTO BY ROBERT MAHARRY La Carreta Mexican Grill Owner Alfonso Medina, in partnership with his wife Vanessa Perez and business partner Arturo Mujica, recently made a $5,000 donation to reduce lunch debt within the Marshalltown Community School District.