coronavirus pandemic

Nonprofits Begin High Road Kitchens to Provide Low-Cost Food to Workers

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The San Diego Workforce Partnership, the San Diego Foundation, and several local restaurants are taking part in a newly launched program designed to get people back to work while providing more than 7,500 meals.

The local offshoot of Gov. Gavin Newsom's newly announced High Road Kitchens program involves a statewide network of independent restaurants that will provide food on a sliding scale to low-wage workers, health care workers, first responders and others in need during the coronavirus pandemic.

High Road Kitchens provides jobs for restaurant workers and a subsidy for responsible restaurant owners who commit to paying a living wage and following equitable employment practices.

"This initiative benefits our entire community: local restaurants and their employees and customers, as well as essential workers. In this time of great need, these small businesses are able to take care of our region's first responders and low-wage workers. Participating restaurants are also setting a standard for job quality, wages, and benefits" said Peter Callstrom, CEO of the San Diego Workforce Partnership.

The Workforce Partnership and San Diego Foundation -- as well as local restaurants, including Ponce's Mexican Restaurant and Super Cocina -- are working in conjunction with the One Fair Wage campaign to fund the training, start-up costs and initial wages for workers rehired as part of the initiative.

Each participating restaurant will serve at least 500 free meals to essential and low-wage workers over the course of the program. They will also offer curbside pickup for customers paying on a sliding scale, allowing those who are financially able to subsidize free meals for those who are food insecure during the COVID-19 crisis. The project's goal is to include at least 15 restaurants and serve at least 7,500 free meals.

The San Diego Workforce Partnership has set aside $150,000 for phase one of the project. The San Diego Foundation has contributed $110,000.

"This pandemic has hit restaurants hard, and it's been a rollercoaster for our entire staff and their families," said Mikey Knab, director of operations at Ponce's Mexican Restaurant. "Now, with High Road Kitchens, we're able to keep our employees working with the long-term initiative of increasing their wages. Being able to welcome the community with food is exactly why we're here, and now we get to show extra love to those who need it most."

High Road Kitchens will provide restaurants with initial start-up costs related to food, safety precaution process changes, packing and distribution supplies, and wage subsidies for on-the-job training for two months.

"Helping our neighbors and friends get through this pandemic requires a multitude of unique collaborations like High Road Kitchens. We are honored to be a lead partner in this innovative initiative connecting the generous spirit of San Diegans with the vital needs of our community," said Mark Stuart, president, and CEO of the San Diego Foundation.

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