Requests for help have flooded into Giving Kitchen — a nonprofit agency that provides emergency assistance to food service workers across Georgia — led by executive director Bryan Schroeder.
In the first three days of the COVID-19 crisis, Giving Kitchen received more requests for assistance than all of 2018. While Giving Kitchen has a strong network of support and community resources, but the past two weeks have been unlike anything Schroeder’s ever experienced, he says.
“We provide emergency assistance to food workers,” Schroeder says. “If a food service worker is sick or injured, or just has a crisis or death in their immediate family, we will help pay a worker’s living expenses.”
But in less than a month’s time, Schroeder already expected Giving Kitchen to far outpace what they had budgeted so far. Giving Kitchen provides thousands of people a connection to community resources in a most desperate time in their lives.
“Do we have the capacity to provide financial assistance to every unemployed food service worker in Georgia? No. But we can be a trusted resource that has the best information about where a food service worker can get help in the community,” Schroeder says. “Over the past few weeks, we’ve had about 20 times the number of assistance inquiries. For people that qualify for financial assistance, we are about four times more, and we expect that to increase. We’ve had about 45,000 unique views on our resources page.”
Thousands of people are out of work as restaurants across the state close their doors — actually nobody knows that better than Schroeder himself. His parents own the restaurant “Schroeder’s New Deli” in Rome.
“Schroeder’s has been open every day of my life, until last week,” he says. “We’re lucky because we’re in a better position than a lot of folks, but it’s upsetting because we care for our employees, and I worry about my parents.”
The reason for the restaurant industry’s state of flux, and the additional call on Giving Kitchen for help in this time of crisis, is the pandemic outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
About two weeks into March, major cities across the country began shutting down restaurants, bars, gyms and schools in an attempt to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. As of March 31, the infectious disease, COVID-19, which is a respiratory illness with symptoms such as cough, fever and in severe cases, difficulty breathing, has infected more than 215,000 people nationwide and killed more than 4,500.
Businesses shut down in Atlanta and its surrounding communities, and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on March 24 issued a “stay-at-home” order for the next 14 days.
Social distancing guidelines were encouraged at the federal, state and local levels.
Giving Kitchen has made a commitment to help those who are facing this unexpected crisis and unemployment.
In the past 15 days, Giving Kitchen has provided more than $100,000 in financial aid for basic living expenses to more than 85 food service workers across Georgia.
Some of the crises Giving Kitchen has helped with include a chef with a cancer diagnosis, a bartender with a broken leg, a server with an emergency pregnancy and child in NICU, a chef who lost his father and is caring for his elderly mother, a manager with a late term miscarriage and over 15 people facing suspected COVID-19 illness or a doctor mandated quarantine because they have a compromised immune system.
But in order to continue this work, Giving Kitchen needs help.
A recent grant from United Way of Greater Atlanta and Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta will help Giving Kitchen provide its services.
On March 27, United Way and Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta announced its second round of grants allocated from its Greater Atlanta COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund. Giving Kitchen was allocated $250,000 in grant funds.
These grants will support increased requests for assistance from food service workers who are currently unemployed and experiencing other crises in the midst of this pandemic outbreak.
“The funds from United Way and Community Foundation will go directly out the door to provide critical living expenses to food service workers—for those impacted by COVID-19 or who need help paying for rent, utilities, etc.,” Schroeder says.
This grant couldn’t come at a more crucial time, Schroeder says. Giving Kitchen is facing an unprecedented demand for its services, and these funds will help them meet the needs of the community.
The food service industry was its largest supporter and they are down for the count. Giving Kitchen has turned to individual donations, foundations and corporations for support.
The Greater Atlanta COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund allows Giving Kitchen to meet its ability to serve those people who serve us and weather the impact of the increased financial demand.
“We have a great working relationship with both [United Way of Greater Atlanta and Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta],” Schroeder says. “We use United Way’s 211 and we are listed as a resource for them, and Community Foundation has been very supportive of us in the past.”
This has been a difficult time, but Schroeder is encouraged by the response he’s seen over the past two weeks.
“We’re so incredibly thankful,” he says. “I have people who ask me all the time, ‘What can I do to help—say, if I have $100?’ I say, “Take the first $25 and spend it on takeout, leave the next $25 as a tip, and with the rest, if you want to give to people who need food and are hungry, give it to a food bank. If you want to help food service workers who are hurt or injured, then you can support Giving Kitchen. If there is another cause near and dear to your heart — give there. We are proud to be one thread in the patchwork quilt of stability for food service workers and the community at large.”
You can provide help today for organizations like Giving Kitchen and other nonprofits who are filling in gaps across Georgia during this time of crisis by donating to the Greater Atlanta COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund.