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Help Save Tocabe and Protect Indigenous Foods

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For over a decade, Tocabe has been a recognized innovator as a Native based restaurant concept with two brick and mortar locations and a food truck in Denver, CO. We have built our success on the power of Native storytelling through food. But our rapid closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic has caused dire and immediate concerns for our team, for our business and for our suppliers.

On a typical day prior to the pandemic, Tocabe grossed $2,500 in only a few hours. Once the pandemic hit, we remained open for take-out only but made only $150 in 9 hours. As of March 15th, we furloughed all employees as we temporarily shut down operations.

As restaurateurs, we feel it is our obligation to support the production of food and the communities they support. We see the meals we provide as merely the last step and visual representation of many people’s labors. Prior to any restaurant or chef plating food each item has been either grown, raised, harvested, processed, packaged, shipped, received, cleaned, prepped, prepared, ordered, and served. 

We have carefully cultivated a unique, national Native supply chain that is now at risk of collapse due to COVID-19. Each link will be detrimentally affected as the restaurants they rely on for income are shuttered.

Our work extends not only to supporting Native businesses first through our suppliers and vendors but by partnering with community organizations that serve the Native urban population such as Denver Indian Family Resource Center, Denver Indian Center, and Denver American Indian Commission. Without operational restaurants, our community impact initiatives ended abruptly in March.  

Right now our priorities are to retain our employees, restock food products, and cover operations costs. We know that the communities from which we source our products have been hit hard by COVID; in fact, they will be some of the hardest hit areas in the Nation. At present, we cannot meet our obligations to our own employees let alone our suppliers. By getting back up and running we will be able to continue our support for multiple communities by providing positive impacts on health, economy, and food production.

We have applied for federal funding via the CARES Act, however, we fear hiring our employees back only to furlough them again once federal funding runs out. We are trying to secure funding so that we can re-hire with their financial stability in mind.
We have also applied for funding from philanthropic sources but, because we are not a non-profit organization, we are not eligible for most sources of much-needed immediate relief. 

In short, there is a critical gap in the short-term funding we need to stabilize our business. There is a possibility we may permanently shutter our original location in North Denver as we streamline operations to continue our impact at our second location. If we cannot meet our current financial obligations in the short-term, we will not be able to keep our restaurant which is the platform for our impact locally and nationally.

Prior to the pandemic, we crafted a plan to build on Tocabe’s success by creating a Native-centered food distribution model that amplifies the Native food supply chain. We are adapting our plans in real time as we are simultaneously applying for funding to support our restaurant and long-term funding to leverage our planning to pivot successfully into a food distribution model that makes sense in the future. 

As an immediate step, and with your support, we will resume operations. We also know our commercial kitchens have the ability to partner with other community organizations to package and distribute food for our community members that do not have the ability to leave their homes. We can have an immediate and positive impact not only for our employees but also for the Native community here in Denver if Tocabe is solvent in the short-term. 

We understand there are currently many companies and individuals in great need, especially in these unprecedented times. If you have the ability, we ask you to please consider a donation to help Tocabe continue our mission to support American Indian communities by providing environments for positive sharing of stories and culture through food. 

Ben Jacobs (Osage) and Matt Chandra


  • Liz Keltner
    • $100 
    • 4 yrs
  • Alice Lay
    • $55 
    • 4 yrs
  • Anonymous
    • $100 
    • 4 yrs
  • Kathleen Sloan
    • $65 
    • 4 yrs
  • Jill Cartwright
    • $200 
    • 4 yrs

Fundraising team: Tocabe (2)

Matthew Chandra
Denver, CO
Ben Jacobs
Team member

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