This post originally appeared on March 28, 2020 in Amanda Kludt’s newsletter “From the Editor,” a roundup of the most vital news and stories in the food world each week. Read the archives and subscribe now.
Last week, I mentioned a lot of the ways restaurant owners and workers were coming together to help one another and their communities. There’s one kind of story in this genre that’s worth singling out: deep (or just generous) pockets employing restaurants to feed people in need.
In Cambridge, Massachusetts, the city contracted a handful of restaurants to deliver 2,000 meals to nine homeless shelters as part of a pilot program. If the program is successful, they’ll expand it with more restaurants and more shelters. In San Francisco, Twitch CEO Emmett Shear donated $1 million to start a new nonprofit called the SF New Deal that will connect restaurants with hospitals, churches, and other organizations, paying them to serve meals to people in need. Maker’s Mark is supporting 12 community kitchens across the country through chef Ed Lee’s Lee Initiative, in order to provide hot meals and supplies to out-of-work restaurant workers.
Meanwhile, along the same lines, in an op-ed this week chef José Andrés called for a government program similar to the W.P.A. during the Great Depression’s New Deal that would commit public dollars to employ restaurants to feed the hungry: “Only those of us who work in restaurants can help revive the economy while feeding and building our communities at the same time. Restaurants were shut down by our governments; they can be revived by our governments to serve the people in their hour of greatest need.”
While the ad hoc collection of donations and delivery of meals to those in need via the myriad Venmos and GoFundMes is heartwarming to see, I love seeing the efficiency of deploying aid en masse while keeping restaurant workers employed. I’m curious to see if this spreads to other local governments and established or new charities as this crisis deepens.
Daniel and I discuss the current state of the industry, including the stimulus package, fundraising, Floyd Cardoz, and more. Then we talk to Dan Giusti of Brigade about what it’s like to provide free meals for schoolkids in this moment.