Relief Works – Fort Worth Weekly
The local food service industry was an early victim of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. All of the restaurants that have managed to stay open work with skeleton crews and earn a fraction of what they would normally earn. Julie Eastman has seen the devastation firsthand.
As the executive director of the annual Fort Worth Food and Wine Festival (postponed to October 22-25), she recently had to make numerous phone calls to inform vendors that the FWFWF would not be hiring her this spring.
The FWFWF supports the Fort Worth Food + Wine Foundation, which awards grants to budding food industry professionals. Charitable causes have always been the goal of Eastman’s Festival. That’s why she and the Foundation’s board members recently set up a $ 100,000 relief fund for unemployed restaurant and bar workers.
“It seemed obvious we had to do something,” said Eastman. “So many people have difficulties with layoffs and have to cut their working hours. It is extreme hardship. “
Eastman said the first checks could be in the hands of food workers by Friday. Restaurant owners or business leaders can apply online at Fwfwf.com/relief for one or more employees laid off due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The online questionnaire enables a voluntary committee of the foundation to evaluate applications as required. Priority will be given to food workers who have children, have ongoing health needs, or have elderly or disabled relatives at home.
“Our panel members have no idea [of the identity] the applicant, ”said Eastman. “We’re looking for people who can’t just get another job. If they have three children, they will be temporarily unable to work for Tom Thumb as childcare may cost more than they make. “
The original goal was to provide individual grants of $ 500. Many applicants have asked for smaller amounts, presumably so that the funds can help larger numbers of people, Eastman said.
Withdrawing funds is only half the battle. The Fort Worth Food + Wine Foundation is soliciting donations, which will be sent directly to unemployed food service workers. Eastman has felt the strain of an economic downturn that disproportionately affected the Fort Worth food and beverage industry. Bootstrapping has highlighted the strengths of local restaurant and bar owners, Eastman said.
“All of our restaurant partners had to lay people off and recreate themselves to be roadside delivery or take-out restaurants,” she said. “You’re still trying to help. They may make family meals where there weren’t any. Fort Worth supported Fort Worth. People buy gift cards and direct people to support local restaurants. We would love to have more in the relief fund to give away. When people want to donate, we’re happy to be a place where they can do that. “L
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