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Food

Where to donate to help restaurant industry workers affected by the pandemic

Restaurant workers line the block outside the Mozzaplex for free meals and other supplies offered by the restaurant and the Lee Initiative.
Restaurant workers line the block outside the Mozzaplex for free meals and other supplies offered by the restaurant and the Lee Initiative.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

According to the U.S. Dept. of Labor, the restaurant and food industry lost 60% of its workforce last month. Many food service workers were already living paycheck to paycheck, so the crisis has hit particularly hard. Below is a list of organizations that are giving help and money to those in need.

Children of Restaurant Workers (CORE)
Started in 2004 to help support restaurant workers’ families, CORE pivoted to help food industry employees and their families who have been diagnosed with the virus. The organization also provides resources for those whose jobs have been affected.

Campaign to Support Mexican Migrants in the US
Chef Enrique Olvera (of Pujol in Mexico City and Cosme in New York City) and journalist Leon Krauze, both natives of Mexico City, founded this organization to help migrant workers with financial and health issues due to the outbreak.

James Beard Foundation Relief Fund
The Beard Foundation has launched a fund to provide micro-grants to independent food and beverage businesses in need during the crisis. It is asking for donations from corporations and foundations as well as individual donors.

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The Lee Initiative
Started by chef Edward Lee, this program is turning restaurants across the country (which locally have included Mozza and Sqirl) into relief centers for local restaurant workers who have been laid off or had a significant decrease in pay. Donations can be earmarked to a specific city, including L.A.; the program has brought relief centers to 14 cities so far.

No Us Without You
La’Va Hospitality is a consulting group started by Aaron Melendrez, Damian Diaz and Othon Nolasco, three L.A. bartenders and hospitality veterans. Now they’re raising money to provide relief for back-of-house kitchen staff affected by the pandemic. One hundred percent of the funds raised go to food kits for the families of affected workers.

One Fair Wage
The organization has an emergency fund to provide cash assistance to restaurant workers, tipped workers, delivery drivers and other food service workers who have been affected by the crisis, including those forced to quarantine at home. Many tipped and gig workers were paid low wages (the federal tipped minimum wage is $2.13 per hour) before the pandemic.

Restaurant Workers Community Foundation
The organization, founded in 2018 to advocate for gender equality, racial justice, fair wages and healthy work environments in the restaurant industry, established a COVID-19 crisis relief fund that has already raised more than $2 million. Half of the money raised is going to direct relief for restaurant workers, a quarter to zero-interest loans to restaurants, and a quarter to nonprofits aiding restaurant workers.

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Restaurants Care
The nonprofit California Restaurant Assn. Foundation, founded in 1981 to teach future restaurant industry workers and to provide others in the field with financial assistance in crises, is now focusing on our national crisis. Its program Restaurants Care is using 100% of donations to give grants to California restaurant workers suffering from COVID-19 or who have otherwise been affected by the virus, documented or undocumented.

The Street Vendor Emergency Fund
A nonprofit started by the L.A. group Inclusive Action for the City, the group started an emergency fund to provide cash to L.A. street vendors, most of whom have been shut down during shelter-in-place restrictions. The money raised ($50,000 so far), will be disbursed in $400 increments to those needing help to buy groceries and pay rent.

World Central Kitchen
Started by Spanish chef José Andrés years ago to help provide food to communities devastated by natural disasters, World Central Kitchen has been delivering meals to quarantined ship passengers and to thousands of people across the country who need food during the emergency. It is also delivering fresh meals, feeding front-line care workers and helping closed restaurants.

Did we miss your organization? Please let us know.

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Substance abuse resources for those in the restaurant industry:
Ben’s Friends, which offers daily remote meetings; I Got Your Back, or text HOPE to (916) 668-4226 for 24/7 confidential crisis support.
Suicide prevention and crisis counseling resources:
If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. For the Disaster Distress Helpline, call 800-985-5990.


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