New fundraising campaign to help Pittsburgh's out-of-work food and service workers | Food | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

New fundraising campaign to help Pittsburgh's out-of-work food and service workers

As more and more restaurant and food and drink services are being forced to switch gears to take-out only operations, lay off staff, or hang up their aprons and shutter their businesses completely during the coronavirus pandemic, an emergency fund has been put in place to help those recently out of work.

“Service workers of Pittsburgh are experiencing unimaginable circumstances with mass layoffs,” says Kate Romane, owner and chef of Black Radish Kitchen and committee member of the newly launched Restaurant and Food Service Emergency Fund.

The fund, launched on Friday, aims to distribute $150 to qualified workers from donations submitted to a GoFundMe page. Donations can be made here, and people in need can submit an application here.

“This community lives close to the bone, reliant on gratuities and nightly payouts,” Romane continues. “As they wait for unemployment, we saw it a necessity to find a way to get money into their hands in real time.”

The crowdfunding effort was launched this week by TABLE Magazine co-owners Justin Matase (TABLE's publisher, and part-time business manager for Pittsburgh City Paper) and TABLE's editor-in-chief Keith Recker, in conjunction with Community Kitchen, a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit focused on workforce development for the food-service industry.

Committee members also include Hilary Brown; Eileen French, Revive Marketing; Jennifer Flanagan, Community Kitchen; and Marlene Van Nelson, Trellis Legal.

Romane knows the hardship the industry is facing firsthand. Today, she will be distributing already sold-out orders of "meatballs in a pandemic" — a pick-up package containing meatballs, sauce, pasta, cheese, bread, and cookies — from Black Radish Kitchen’s Point Breeze location. The meal plan was an idea Romane first announced on Facebook on March 13: “We still really want to cook you food!! we still want to make you fat and happy. we all still need to eat!!”

But this week, she announced that today's take-out meals would be “the last hoorah for Black Radish till we feel it is safe to start feeding faces again.”

The Restaurant and Food Service Emergency Fund is the second large crowdfunding campaign in Pittsburgh to generate help for workers during the pandemic. The Pittsburgh Virtual Tip Jar — a new independent project hosted on Carnegie Mellon University's Center for Ethics and Policy website — lists the Venmo and PayPal accounts for local service members out of work so people can pick and choose who they wish to “tip” with a click of their mouse.

"Think of all the gorgeous, delicious, memorable nights out you’ve had over the last few years. The hostess who seated you and made sure you were happy. The bartender who mixed you that cocktail you needed. The server whose sense of humor made the meal that much more fun," reads the Restaurant and Food Service Emergency Fund's press release. "They all need you now — not to mention the hardworking back-of-house staff, whose names and faces we seldom know. They, too, have been idled by COVID-19. It’s our turn to do our best for them. Please give as much as you can to help them.

TABLE Magazine owners plan to donate all subscription revenue generated during the campaign into the fund.