As the coronavirus pandemic continues and leaves millions unemployed, relief efforts have popped up in communities across the country to support laid-off workers, families in need, and shuttered small businesses. On Friday, a new initiative launched in Newark, New Jersey, with some high-profile support: Marcus Samuelsson, José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen, and Audible announced Newark Working Kitchens (NWK), which will deliver free daily meals to Newark residents in need. NWK will also include a mentorship program to help small businesses and restaurants navigate federal, state, and local funding that’s available during the crisis.
“By working together we can harness the full power of each of our abilities to combat food insecurity in our local community during this extraordinary time of need,” Samuelsson said in a statement. “As this is now our third collaboration with World Central Kitchen across the country, we are even more motivated to help build a model that can be replicated and expanded quickly across our country and hopefully the world.”
Audible, which is based in Newark, is seeding the NWK initiative with $1 million, which will provide 100,000 meals. Michael B. Jordan, a Newark native, is also contributing to the effort, and Newark Venture Partners and Invest Newark are spearheading the mentorship program.
New Jersey has been hit especially hard by COVID-19, and Newark—the state’s biggest city—is disproportionately at risk, with studies showing that Black Americans are more susceptible to the coronavirus, according to public health experts. “Our lack of access to healthcare makes it even worse,” mayor Ras Baraka said in a video press conference on Wednesday.
Samuelsson joins a remarkable wave of hospitality industry leaders who are mobilizing to care for the communities hit hardest by COVID-19— and that includes their restaurants. On April 6, a newly formed group of chefs and restaurateurs called the Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC) sent a letter to Congress demanding more comprehensive aid for independently run restaurants.
“The plan so far is really insufficient to restaurants needs,” said Tom Colicchio of the recently passed stimulus package, in a press conference joined by chefs Kwame Onwuachi and Naomi Pomeroy. “We need additional funding. We’re not looking for a bailout—we’re looking to get back to work when we can get back to work.”
“As a Black operator and minority owner, we’re especially vulnerable during this crisis,” said Onwuachi. “There’s little to no security in the face of an emergency like this. We’re calling on Congress to take action and ensure restaurants can survive this.”