Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival Supports Restaurant Workers

FORT WORTH, Texas – Diana Del Rio was unable to work. The 25-year-old waitress in the upscale Reata Restaurant in the city center is also a single mother of two small children.

When the pandemic hit our coast in March, restaurants, schools and day care centers were closed, forcing her to live as a parent with no income. After weeks of trying, she finally managed to sign up for unemployment benefits, but not before making bills that made her feel crippling with stress and insecurity.

What you need to know

  • The week-long event of the Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival was canceled this year

  • The Fort Worth Food + Wine Foundation raises funds for culinary arts grants

  • That year, the foundation’s organizers decided to change their charitable goal and raise money for unemployed restaurant workers

  • The foundation has spent more than $ 110,000 to around 250 people since March

“It was really difficult to get the bills that came due,” she said. “I remember calling my apartment complex and just asking, ‘What is everyone going to do? How, how is the rent paid? ‘It was just a hard time and a lot of fear. “

Del Rio also had bigger problems than figuring out how to keep the lights on. Their youngest child, a three-year-old boy, was born with cyclic vomiting syndrome, a rare disease that causes vomiting in children. Her youngest has been hospitalized 42 times since he was born – and 15 times since April. The inpatient stays usually last about a week. Due to coronavirus restrictions, only one person is allowed into a hospital room at a time. Since Del Rio had no money for childcare, the prospect of being in the hospital room with one son or in the waiting room with the other was faced.

Del Rio and around 250 other employees in the local unemployed restaurant industry have received grants from the Fort Worth Food + Wine Foundation, the non-profit organization of the Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival. So far, since March, the foundation has donated more than $ 110,000 to needy industrial workers – in 85 different restaurants.

Del Rio received the maximum scholarship of $ 500 that she paid for a babysitter to watch her older son while she was in the hospital with her youngest child.

“That $ 500 meant a lot,” she said. “It helps and I’m very grateful for it.”

The hub of the festival

Every two years in its seven-year history, the proceeds from the week-long festival benefit culinary arts students through scholarships that are used for grants and supplies. This year, after the event was canceled due to the pandemic, the foundation decided to shift its charitable focus. The FWFWF is still raising money for scholarships, but the festival’s executive director, Julie Eastman, said the festival organizers had decided to be proactive and help as many people in the industry as possible.

“We realized very quickly that we had to do everything we could to help the restaurant community and the food and beverage community in general,” she said. “We had the idea to set up this fund.”

The grants, she said, were not just for laid-off people, but also for those in the industry who carried the weight of other expenses and stressors beyond just paying rent and bills.

“You also had to have medical bills or you don’t have childcare,” she said. “You have young children in your home or the whole household has been laid off – some of the things that have created this dire straits.”

A restaurant manager must apply for the grant on behalf of the employee to ensure the money reaches the workers most in need. When the applications come in, Eastman scrubs the name of the restaurant and passes the information on to the five-person panel that ultimately decides who will receive a grant. The check goes to the restaurant, which is then responsible for distributing the right amount to the right people.

Eastman said she recently applied for a grant that will hopefully continue to fund the restaurant staff relief fund. The non-profit association 501c3 also accepts donations.

Del Rio returned to work in July and although she only worked 10 hours a week, she was laid off from unemployment. Fortunately, she said, business is finally starting again. With Reata, customers can dine in waves so that the restaurant operators can keep guests at a safe distance from each other. Her eldest son is back in school and her youngest in daycare.

“We’re starting to get back on track,” she said. “The holidays are just around the corner. Fortunately, that means a lot more hours. “

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