Rethink Food, a local nonprofit, will begin offering eateries $40,000 grants each to stay open and produce subsidized food which can be purchased by New Yorkers in need during the coronavirus pandemic. The New York City-based non-profit is working to recover nutritious excess food to provide low or no-cost meals to New York City families in need, has shifted gears to focus on the coronavirus crisis.
Its’ newly launched Rethink Restaurant Response Program offers operators and restaurant workers two creative and financially supportive options for help.
New York Restaurants and bars have been closed as part of a nationwide effort to halt the spread of the deadly virus. “It’s basically our way of troubleshooting what is needed from a culinary standpoint right now,” Rethink executive director Meg Savage said. “It is at no cost to whoever is looking to dine. There is a suggested donation of $5, but if you can’t pay it, you’re still going to get a meal.”
The restaurant response program has enough cash on hand to expand to up to 30 restaurants in the Big Apple — and is taking applications from interested eateries via an online application. It’s already fielded more than 60 inquiries. In addition to feeding the needy, Savage said she believed the program would likely save 150 restaurant jobs.
Rethink is also hiring back of house employees—culinary team members, facilities team members and food distribution associates—to join its Brooklyn Navy Yard-based culinary center and begin cooking and preparing meals for New Yorkers that will be distributed to its partners like God’s Love and City Harvest, and also at the Rethink Cafe in Fort Greene and at its partner restaurants across the city.
Restaurants across the city impacted by the pandemic are encouraged to apply to become a Rethink partner. Each partner restaurant will receive a $40,000 grant to be used to stay afloat—to pay staff or rent, whatever is needed. If selected for the grant, the restaurant will then become a distribution center for food made by Rethink. Rethink’s meals are available for free to any New Yorker or for a suggested donation of $3 and will be served for delivery or grab and go. “Essentially the restaurants will become distribution arms of Rethink,” explained Savage.
At Little Tong Noodle Shop in the East Village, which teamed up with Rethink, interested passersbys could stop in for a bowl of spicy dan dan ground pork ragu with marinated cabbage over rice noodles — with a vegetarian option also available. A wall of tables had been erected to enforce social distancing.
“I am really hoping I can keep 20 to 25% of employees,” Simone Tong, who founded the shop in 2017, said. “I want to help my people as much as I can to continue employment. That is the number one goal. We need people to cook and to serve the community.”