When Riley Wilkinson recognized a need here in Yakima, WA, he took to Facebook to build a strong coalition of support. In Washington State, and in Yakima County, local restaurants are generally closed to indoor seating, with outdoor capacity capped at 25%, with few exceptions allowed. Hearing that a Wilkinson team favorite haunt, Yakima Sports Center with their famous revolving duck hunter sign, would be closing their doors for good, Riley established the Yakima Food Mob on February 1st.
Riley explains on the group’s home page: “We love Yakima’s restaurants, and we know that COVID-19 has been difficult for restaurant owners. To support local restaurants, we will choose one restaurant a week that this group is going to “Mob”! We will buy their food, gift cards, merch, and leave raving reviews on all of their social media accounts.” Yakima Food Mob members have identified and voted for more than 100 restaurants to be “mobbed.” Once a restaurant has been chosen, Riley works with the owners so they can order food and supplies in advance of the rush, to fully prepare to benefit from the outpouring of support.
Riley says he has been amazed with how quickly the food mob idea has taken off, noting that he “thought it would be really cool to have 150 members” when he started the page. As of March 18th, the group has attracted over 4,000 members.
Building Beyond Yakima With Our Apartment Home Communities
Since COVID-19 took hold in March 2020 in Yakima, we have seen dozens of locally-owned restaurants close permanently, including several staples spanning many decades—a common occurrence across our nation.
Gathering around food events has been a popular attraction at our apartment home communities. While we would make up just about any excuse to gather for some kind of community event, COVID-19 related restrictions have challenged us to become more creative. Enter the food trucks. Each week we invite a food truck operator to serve the residents and staff in our apartment home communities. As people gather at the trucks, we see them interacting and creating a greater sense of connection—which can help combat the feelings of loneliness and isolation that have been compounded by the current COVID-19 social restrictions. We have found this creative idea—to support local businesses and bring residents and staff in our apartment communities closer together—to be a very successful and popular solution when done in a healthy and responsible way. We fully expect this new tradition to continue well beyond the current socially distant environment.