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Frank Stasio’s Fondest Shows: Meet Cecilia Polanco, Who Runs 'So Good Pupusas'

A young woman and an older woman posing together in front of what looks like a food truck.
Courtesy of Cecilia Polanco
/
Cecilia Polanco (right) with her mother. She balances running a small business with service on various boards.

Cecilia Polanco’s parents did not dream of their daughter owning a food truck when they emigrated from El Salvador to the United States in the early 1980s. Their expectation was that she would get a respectable profession after college, or even better, a career, like her older sisters who work in law and insurance. So when she proposed the idea of a pupusa business, her mother naturally had some concerns — Polanco did not even know how to make the traditional Salvadoran fare.

It became clear to Polanco that — after graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — she would have to attend what she calls "The School of Pupusas" under the instruction of her aunt and mother. With the guidance and support of her family, Polanco has leveraged her grandmother’s recipe into a force for change in Durham. The food truck So Good Pupusas funds a nonprofit that Polanco founded to provide college scholarships to undocumented students and DACA recipients.

Polanco hustles to make ends meet, yet continues improving her food truck’s model for economic justice and environmental sustainability. Those values permeate all of her work. In addition to being the CEO of So Good Pupusas, she is the executive director of SEEDS, a nonprofit urban garden and kitchen classroom in Durham, and serves on various boards, including Durham’s Racial Equity Task Force and LatinxEd.

Host Frank Stasio talked with Polanco in 2019 about balancing work, passions and mental health as a young entrepreneur. Frank says this story sticks out in his mind because "Cecilia is reaching back into her own ethnic heritage even as she points the way forward for new immigrants with stories much like her own family's."

View the complete list of Frank's fondest conversations airing December 2020.

 

Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.