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Meet Michael Merino & Ben Tolksdorf

Nearly 300,000 OC residents don’t know where their next meal is coming from. It’s a statistic that drives us daily to reach even more people who are suffering from hunger. We believe no one should go hungry. In response, we’re continuing to grow and expand our food production capabilities for those suffering from hunger.

Recently, we’ve been blessed to be able to hire two new employees for packing and distribution: Michael Merino and Ben Tolksdorf.

Both Michael and Ben are packing half-pans and meals for thousands of people each day.

Michael was working for a protein mix company prior coming to Bracken's Kitchen and he’s grateful to have found meaningful work at Bracken’s. “It’s nice to

see the faces of people we distribute the meals to at the shelters,” Michael said. “And, the co-workers make it a fun and easy environment so the time goes by pretty fast on a daily basis.”

He’s also very grateful for paid benefits and to be making a difference.

“I grew up in a similar situation as those we serve. I grew up in Santa Ana where 20-30 people were living in one house,” said Michael. “So I see things from a different perspective. Now, it’s very gratifying to be in a position to help others. It’s very heartwarming.”

Michael said he’d like to stay and grow with the company to see what doors open.

All of the chefs take pride in the food that they put out for those in need and Michael is impressed. “The portions are better than you can buy at a store, and everything is nutritious. The chefs serve food they would want their families to eat,” said Michael.

Ben was hired in early January to pack all of the community and contract meals. Prior to coming to Bracken’s, he was working in a warehouse driving a forklift loading and unloading products. He first heard about Bracken’s when he was volunteering at the Giving Farm at Westminster High School where we receive some fresh produce.

Since he started in early January he’s enjoyed the work and meeting new people. “I like to interact with the people in the kitchen, and the people who pick up the food from the churches, homeless shelters, and community organizations,” said Ben. “Packing can be monotonous, but at the same time I like the challenge because there is a lot that we have to get done each day.”

With each day our workers are benefitting our community.

“It’s always on my mind that whatever I am doing here is going to be helping a lot of people,’ said Ben. “It’s motivating, encouraging, and humbling to know that.”

As we grow, packaging will be as important as cooking and preparing meals.

We are grateful for Ben and Michael who are also making a difference for those that are suffering from food insecurity.



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