An article in today’s New York Times describes how some East Coast restaurants are finding a surprising new revenue source during the pandemic – reimbursement from nonprofit organizations for helping fight food insecurity by providing meals to underserved communities. Organizations such as World Central Kitchen, the relief group run by chef Jose Andres, and Rethink Food, are paying restaurants as much as $10 per meal, an income stream that helps them keep their staffs employed and helps offset monthly operating costs.
In Seattle, some restaurants and other food-focused organizations have shifted or expanded their operations over the past year to include community giving to help fight food insecurity. A few of the notable efforts have included:
- Frontline Foods, a partner of World Central Kitchen, has donated meals to local hospitals and clinics through the COVID Clinician Meal Support Program, with restaurants including Jack’s BBQ, Mamnoon, Nue, and Matt’s in the Market supporting the initiative
- Frelard Tamales provides no-questions-asked free meals including sandwiches at its Green Lake shop to anyone affected by COVID-19
- Chef Tarik Abdullah of popup Midnight Mecca distributes free meals weekly through his “Feed the People” initiative in the Central District. Recent meals have included tomato soup and flatbread with chimichurri red lentil sauce.
- Musang in Beacon Hill offers a community kitchen on Mondays and Tuesdays with hot food as well as perishable food items on a first-come, first-served basis
- Spice Waala, with locations in Capitol Hill and Ballard, provides as many as 200 free meals per week in partnership with community organizations such as Community Lunch and Mary’s Place
- Ba Bar restaurant has distributed free meals to health care workers and $5 meals to restaurant industry workers at their Capitol Hill location
- Chef Rachel Yang has provided free meals to food service workers, including beef curry and rice, at her restaurant Revel in Fremont
- Chef Edouardo Jordan has provided hundreds of free to-go meals to struggling restaurant workers at his Ravenna restaurant Salare
- Farestart’s community kitchen distributes thousands of meals per day to homeless shelters, senior centers, and other social services organizations, increasing its pre-pandemic output by 150%. And its Catalyst Kitchens initiative is consulting with over 80 nonprofits in 39 cities to help them increase their emergency meals capacity.
As the pandemic stretches on, it’s unclear whether only the most successful or most philanthropically-minded organizations will be able to continue to support the community, or whether new business models like the ones described in the Times article will take hold.
Seattle diners who want to encourage these efforts should get takeout from restaurants that have shown they are keeping an eye on the community. And when possible, it’s worth donating to nonprofit groups like World Central Kitchen and Farestart who are working to ease food insecurity across the country. For more ways you can help, see this roundup in Eater Seattle.
What I Ate: Salare’s “180 Burger” with pimento cheese, applewood smoked bacon, and arugula