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Bring a bag of flour, get handmade tortillas

Courtney Blankenship
Pratt resident Maria Garcia makes tortillas just about every day. She has been making tortillas for those in Pratt who are hungry and can't find bread at the grocery stores during the COVID-19 crisis.

As COVID-19 pandemic reports show empty grocery store shelves, two Pratt women have chosen to help others in need by making and sharing extra food.

Maria Garcia, a Pratt resident, said that she originally posted on a Facebook page called “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” an offer to make tortillas for anyone in need of food.

Garcia said if people are able to bring bags of flour to leave on her porch, she can make about 60 tortillas out of each 5-pound bag of flour and any extra flour could go toward helping those who cannot afford to bring it.

If someone is not able to provide the flour, she said they are still welcome to reach out to her.

“I was born in Mexico. I was from a family that was really poor and at times, we didn’t have anything to eat, and I know there’s a lot of people that are losing their jobs,” Garcia said. “I know not everybody has, you know, the essentials.”

Garcia seals her homemade tortillas in plastic bags and gives containers of beans with them, if people are in need.

“Every other day, I make four or five dozen tortillas and put them in the freezer--that way I can have them ready if [people] start asking,” Garcia said. “I make some tortillas, put them in the freezer, and then when we’re ready to use them, we just get them out, let them thaw out a little bit and they’re ready.”

Garcia said her tortillas stay soft even after being kept in the freezer and saved for later.

“If they don’t have the flour or things like that, tell them not to worry, just get in touch,” Garcia said. “These tortillas, you warm them up and you can scramble an egg and make a burrito, you can fry some potatoes and make it a burrito. It’s just like bread except it’s a tortilla.”

Garcia said that as a diabetic, she has had to stay in her house for the past month so cooking has helped to get her mind off the situation a little. She has given tortillas to five people so far and gave both beans and tortillas to another person.

“I feel bad when people don’t take this seriously because it is serious,” Garcia said. “We don’t know how long we’re going to be like this. I don’t know how long it’s going to take to get a vaccine, and we are in the unknown.”

If people let her know that they want tortillas in the morning, Garcia said she can have the tortillas ready by noon because they do not take a long time to make.

“Like I said, it’s not costing me a lot of money or my husband a lot of money, it’s something that is just cheap to do,” Garcia said. “If I can make 60 tortillas out of a 5-pound bag [of flour], it’s just nothing.”

Anyone in need of tortillas can reach out to Garcia through the Neighbors Helping Neighbors Facebook page, or, Garcia said they can tell her daughter, Yadira Pedroza “Gia”, that they are interested in receiving tortillas.

Patrice Egging, another Pratt resident who offered to provide food for those in need, said she initially did it as a way to honor the memory of her daughter, Mendi Cotter, who passed away on September 23 in a car wreck.

Cotter worked at St. Paul University Parish at Wichita State, and was loved by the many people who knew her, Egging said. Her daughter’s generosity and compassion served as her inspiration to give food to those in need at this time.

“[Mendi’s] birthday was March 20, and March 23 would have been 6 months since she had been killed,” Egging said. “I just felt like I needed to do something to help.”

It did not take long before Egging said she received word from someone online in need of a meal.

When she went to deliver the meal, Egging said she saw a woman wearing a t-shirt with an Irish reference, and since Egging’s daughter had really taken pride in her own Irish heritage, seeing the t-shirt felt like a kind of sign that she was honoring her daughter’s memory.

Now that a stay-at-home order has been issued for the state of Kansas, Egging said she is unsure about how best to proceed since she does not want people to risk being infected by going out.

She said she could bring food to leave on porches if needed, or the food bank could be another good option.

“In spite of the circumstances, people have been very kind to each other and that’s wonderful,” Egging said.