SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A Sarasota County couple is looking to help those in need, through a business they began during the coronavirus pandemic.
Tina Russo owns the “Sofrito” food truck, located right on the border of Venice and Nokomis, on the bypass on South Tamiami Trail.
“I went to culinary school when I was, I guess I was about 20. And it was always kind of like a dream of mine. It seemed smaller and more obtainable than a restaurant,” Russo said of the food truck, which opened in June of 2020.
She and her fiancé specialize in Puerto Rican cuisine, along with some fusion dishes, as well.
Russo told 8 On Your Side she has always wanted to give back. The idea for Sofrito’s “pay-it-forward” concept came to her from a local Facebook group, called “Venice Foodies Community.” She saw a post from a restaurant in Los Angeles that features a wall of pre-paid meal tickets that other folks had paid for.
“I thought to myself, ‘Oh my gosh, this is genius, I love this idea so much.’ And immediately, I saw it on like a Sunday night, and we open on Wednesday, and by Wednesday morning we had already started it,” Russo explained. “I’m really, really excited about it. I’ve always wanted to do something like this, even before we opened the truck, so being able to make that come true is really awesome.”
Those stopping by the Sofrito truck can donate a full meal, or just a dollar amount.
Those in need of a hot meal can pick up a ticket for some food, no questions asked.
Russo and her fiancé are currently matching donations throughout the rest of the week.
Russo said the positive response to their efforts has been a bit overwhelming.
“People have just been so, so, so super nice,” she said. “Between the Facebook comments and people coming in person and saying how much they appreciate what we’re doing… I think people like to see some good going back into the world after all of the negative stuff that’s been going on lately.”
The couple has also set up a Venmo account at @sofritolatinstreetfood, for those interested in donating who are not local, or who just want to give back. They’re asking anyone who donates via the account to use “#neighborshelpingneighbors” in the note section.
Anyone in the area interested in donating can also visit the Sofrito truck Facebook page for more information.
“We just appreciate everybody who’s came by to donate and who’s sending us kind and encouraging words and we’re just trying to do what we can, to help as many people as we can,” said Russo. “And if anybody wants to help us spread the word to somebody who could use a free, meal, we would definitely appreciate that. Please send them our way.”
The food truck remains parked at 1011 S Tamiami Trail. It is open Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from noon until 7 p.m.