February 1, 2022

Giving Kitchen: Providing Essential Care to Food Service Workers in a Time of Crisis

Author Aly Semigran, Content Specialist

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Restaurant and food service workers have always been a vital part of the communities we live in, and early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the CDC confirmed this, categorizing restaurant employees as essential workers alongside doctors and nurses.

But while service workers are essential, they’re also a vulnerable group due to low wages and lack of health care. These pre-existing factors have compounded their risk during the pandemic. A study from the University of California, San Francisco reported that line cooks had the single highest-risk job in terms of contracting and dying from COVID-19.

This is remarkable to consider when, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, food service workers total more than 13 million workers. This means, for tens of millions of Americans, the person delivering a pizza, managing a dining hall, or showing diners to their table is someone they know and love. Thankfully, there are nonprofits providing for food service workers in need. One of those is Atlanta-based Giving Kitchen.

Established in 2013 out of the Atlanta restaurant scene, Giving Kitchen helps food service workers in both Georgia and Tennessee with emergency financial and social services assistance. The organization can cover up to $1,800 for rent and basic living expenses—especially helpful for those who have experienced hardships like natural disasters, accidents, illness, injuries, or the loss of a family member.

In 2021, Giving Kitchen provided aid for more than 2,700 individuals and their families, including $1.4 million in financial hardship assistance for many food services workers impacted by COVID-19.

Giving Kitchen Co-Founder and Senior Director of Community Engagement, Jennifer Hidinger-Kendrick, puts it simply: “We are here to help.”

Help goes beyond financial assistance. Giving Kitchen also helps connect employees with a stability network, which directs those in need of no-cost or low-cost services like legal aid, employment opportunities, housing and health care, including mental health support.

The latter is of note, as major issues like substance use disorder, depression and stress highly impact those in the food service industry. “[Food service workers] are so often asked to check their feelings at the door to provide a level of service and hospitality we’ve come to expect,” Hidinger-Kendrick explains.

This can come at a huge cost, and while the mistreatment and mental health ramifications of food service workers gained some new attention throughout the pandemic, Hidinger-Kendrick says that this is a problem “the industry has faced for so long.”

Because of the efforts of Giving Kitchen, food service workers don’t have to face their fears alone.

The organization has an open application process. Those in need visit Giving Kitchen’s website, fill out a simple online form, and will be assigned to a case worker if they qualify. Hidinger-Kendrick says that their team of caseworkers (working in English, Spanish and Arabic) often help get those in need of urgent assistance help in as little as three days.

In 2021, the organization provided aid to more than 2,700 individuals and their families, including $1.4 million in financial hardship assistance. Giving Kitchen helped connect thousands with further assistance through the stability network. Hidinger-Kendrick says the organization hopes to grow those numbers, as well as the areas they serve, in the coming years.

Aly Semigran is a Content Specialist at National Philanthropic Trust. She has been writing and editing professionally for over 15 years, with articles in Billboard, Well + Good and Mic, among many other notable publications. In addition to her editorial background, Aly is currently getting her Masters of Social Work degree from Temple University. She resides in Philadelphia with her dog.

NPT is not affiliated with any of the organizations described herein, and the inclusion of any organization in this material should not be considered an endorsement by NPT of such organization, or its services or products.

NPT does not provide legal or tax advice. This blog post is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be, and shall not be relied upon as, legal or tax advice. The applicability of information contained here may vary depending on individual circumstances.

Photo courtesy of Giving Kitchen.