Like many sectors, the food industry has been greatly impacted by COVID-19. Here are some of the ways you can get involved and make a difference with whatever time and resources you may have to offer.
Below are some of our favorite ways to help those in need right now. From Relief Funds and Volunteer Programs, to making Small Gestures While You Shop, Dine, and Post on Social Media – we can all contribute to making things better for those who have lost their jobs, loved ones, and all those experiencing hardships during this pandemic.
Though this list mostly focuses on workers in the restaurant industry, we also encourage finding ways to help local operations and industries near and dear to you. For instance, if you’d like to help a farmer you know by connecting them to business-saving resources, take a look at the USDA’s Farmer Funds page and read our post about FarmLink, an organization connecting farmers to food banks. By extending our hand to those in need, we find connection and fulfillment in surprising ways.
Restaurants and Restaurant Workers
Relief Funds are being set up for various efforts, such as direct donations to unemployed restaurant workers and independent restaurants. Inevitably, the economic burden from this health crisis most directly affects those workers who are in the most vulnerable financial situations, as they are not considered essential workers and are at the greatest risk of being laid off. Here is a list of funds to consider that particularly resonated with us.
The James Beard Foundation is a foundation that celebrates, nurtures, and honors chefs to make America’s food culture more delicious, diverse, and sustainable for everyone.
The Open for Good campaign, set up by JBF, is designed to help independent restaurants survive this crisis and help them thrive long-term by providing financial assistance. (@beardfoundation)
One Fair Wage Emergency Coronavirus Tipped and Service Worker Support Fund puts cash in the pockets of impacted restaurant workers, car service drivers, delivery workers, and personal service workers. Specifically targeting hourly workers facing unprecedented economic hardships, this fund provides direct, urgent financial assistance to those most directly impacted by food industry closures. (@1fairwage_official)
Another Round Another Rally is a fund set up to offer relief grants of $500 to food hospitality workers, ranging from dishwashers, busboys, chefs, and sommeliers who lost their jobs or had their hours cut because of COVID-19. They are offering a range of ways to tailor your financial support, either by scholarship opportunities, direct financial assistance from the grants, or emergency help. (@anotherroundanotherrally)
Independent Restaurant Coalition is a way to make a difference at the local level. This coalition is designed to provide supporters a way to donate directly to their local restaurants and restaurant workers. They do this by connecting you to your local community and uniting voices to speak directly to lawmakers about decisions regarding industry policy—what they are calling critical investments to bring our economy back. (@indprestaurants)
Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund is created by and for restaurant workers. Their mission is to support hospitality workers who are disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Before COVID, over 40% of this workforce was living on poverty-level wages, and now, many are unemployed—exacerbating an already challenging financial plight in an industry fraught with high turnover and poor job mobility. This underserved and vulnerable population needs our help now more than ever. (@rwcfusa)
Communities and Families Most Vulnerable
Poverty-stricken communities that relied heavily on aid and resources before COVID-19 are feeling the effects of this pandemic ten-fold. Many families, children, and the elderly who cannot work or rely on schools or organizations for meals and support are in great need of additional assistance. Here are a few organizations that are doing their part to help both locally and globally to assist these communities in need.
Dream Center is a Los Angeles-based outreach program that was suggested to us by our readers. This program offers free assistance to communities struggling with basic needs, including food and clothing donations. Dream Center also uniquely allows you to “Adopt a Block”, which provides the opportunity to directly help 23 underserved communities that have been identified as highest risk. (@ladreamcenter)
Midwest Food Bank is one of hundreds of food banks throughout the nation helping to fight hunger. This faith-based organization’s goal is to alleviate malnutrition and starvation locally by providing food relief to those in need.
This national food bank has over 32,000 volunteers who collect, pack, and distribute food. You can consider donating food, funds, or if local, your time. (@midwestfoodbank)
Feeding America is a larger, more global foundation that bases its work on the statistic that 1 in 9 people in the U.S. struggle with hunger, equating to over 37 million people. To combat this, Feeding America is creating the nation’s largest network to connect people in need of food. Target is a major supporter and partner of the foundation, helping to meet the needs of hundreds of thousands of families. (@feedingamerica)
No Kid Hungry focuses on children at risk of losing healthy, balanced meals otherwise provided through their local school system. The organization estimates that over 438 million school meals have been missed because of the pandemic, making it more important than ever to provide families the meals that they need, as well as emergency grants to food banks and community groups. (@feedingamerica)
Meals on Wheels delivers so much more than just food. Founded by a small group of Philadelphia citizens in 1954, the organization supports senior citizens by extending independence and health as they age through food provisions. This has been hailed as one of the most effective social movements in America. Currently, MOW provides meals to over 2.4 million seniors annually in almost every community around the country. (@mealsonwheelsamerica)
Volunteer & Connect
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
Volunteering is so much more than just providing help and support. Volunteering is good for the soul. Not only are we helping those less fortunate, but our role as volunteers provides a sense of pride and accomplishment. There is nothing like the feeling of giving back to others.
Here are some great resources for those of us looking to get involved by lending their time or expertise.
National Service is an incredible resource that provides ideas on how to serve your community based on your ability. They provide links to various food banks and food pantries that require volunteers to assist with food sorting and delivery.
They help guide you to your local school systems that may require a helping hand. Furthermore, they bring to light the need for blood donations for those hospitalized. Outside of donating time and blood, they also provide ideas for those who wish to stay home but also help, such as: donating medical supplies and equipment, donating clothes to local charities, and reaching out to loved ones who need added emotional support.
All for Good is another wonderful platform that aggregates how and where to get started with volunteering, both out of the home and at home. They recognize that there is a desire to help others and give back, while also prioritizing safety – they provide a comprehensive list of ways you can help your community without leaving the house.
They have also created a search function that allows you to search locally within your zip code for projects and connections. Furthermore, their platform is also designed to help startup projects and missions by providing a launch point to get their philanthropy off the ground.
Hard to imagine that ordering your favorite sushi rolls for delivery or picking up a meal at your local pizzeria could make any sort of real impact, right? Wrong! Small acts of changing the way we spend money and being deliberate in our spending can offer support for local eateries and make a huge difference in the lives of those food-industry workers impacted by COVID-19. Here are a few ways the Dirt to Dinner team has changed the way we shop for food, in hopes of providing monetary support to our favorite restaurants and their employees.
Do some research into your local eateries! Check out who is open for delivery or curbside pick-up and order from them.
The best way to directly support your local community is to keep the economy thriving by meaningful spending.
Some restaurants have come up with creative ways to serve their loyal customers and entice spending. For example, see if your local pizza joint is offering an at-home pizza-making kit that you could pick up and enjoy preparing with the whole family. Or see if your favorite weekend spot is providing food plus a wine pairing, for a special at-home dining experience.
Considering take-out goes beyond just the restaurant, as some businesses are partnering with various delivery services to help keep both the storefront and the drivers employed. A delicious win-win if you ask us!
And if you were worried about whether take-out is safe, it is! According to the FDA: “ There is currently no evidence of food, food containers, or food packaging being associated with the transmission of COVID-19.” They recommend that if you are concerned, the best thing to do is to wash your hands after removing food from packaging and before meals. The CDC echoes these sentiments.
Purchase Gift Cards
As we look to the future of what life will look like after COVID-19, we can’t wait to get back to our favorite corner bistro to get our hands on that famous burger or specialty dessert that we have been missing for months.
Buying gift cards from a restaurant is a wonderful way to support businesses now and also to give you an outing to look forward to later– talk about a silver lining! It also puts much-needed cash in the hands of struggling food service employees.
You can also consider gifting gift cards. Right now, buying a birthday gift that consists of clothes, or something for the home seems meaningless, as we likely have no outings to attend or dinners to host—why not buy a gift card to a favorite restaurant to celebrate the occasion at a later date?
Tip Generously, When You Can
Tips, especially cash tips, are a sincere and actionable way to say “thank you!”, not just for service, but also for the workers’ decision to put their health and that of their family members at risk so we can enjoy a delicious meal. Consider bumping up your tip to 25% or 30%. We promise you, a little bit goes a long way.
Use your platforms to raise awareness
Restaurants and food services that can open are doing their best to stay that way! This means that their budgets for marketing are nonexistent – but you can help. Take a photo of your favorite eatery and post it to your social pages. Give the restaurant a great review on Yelp or Google. Tweet a photo of your delicious meal and tell your followers to try it for themselves! If you see a restaurant trying to promote a new item or a special deal, help them out by re-posting or sharing their story.
Helping to mobilize the community is a simple, effective way to show your support for restaurants outside of donations. If you are financially struggling, this is a costless way to lend a hand! Something you can do right now is to take a look at the handles we have included above in our Relief Funds section and consider following these organizations. That way, you can show your support by raising awareness and stay up-to-date with initiatives and efforts they are working on.
While a $5 donation, buying a large pizza, or sending a tweet might seem like nominal actions, they add up and become greater than the sum of their parts. Do what you can with what you have. When made by the collective, these small gestures can change lives.
If you have a foundation or a relief fund that is near and dear to you, please email us at [email protected] and we will include it in our list.
The Bottom Line
Thank you for considering these tips on how to make a difference in the lives of not only food-industry workers, but for everyone in need right now. We will get through this together, step by step, little by little, through generosity and resilience.