TABLE, a Pittsburgh lifestyle publication dedicated to covering the city's food and drink scene, is asking people to support the Food Service Emergency Fund, which will distribute much-needed monetary aid to servers, bartenders, and other food service professionals impacted by the pandemic.
“Our local food scene has been battered by the COVID-19 crisis,” reads the description on the GoFundMe page. “Another mandated closure of indoor dining during the holiday season is going to be especially difficult on service and support staff, many of whom are reliant on gratuities as income, with many more paid hourly behind the scenes. These folks, who often live paycheck to paycheck, have no way to earn income. They need our help, and they need it right now.”
This is the second crowdfunding effort of its kind from TABLE and its partners. Much like the preceding Restaurant and Food Service Emergency Fund that launched in March, the current campaign aims to distribute $150 to each qualified worker who applies for funding.
So far, the latest round has raised $6,570 of its $50,000 goal.
TABLE publisher, Justin Matase, says the magazine restarted the emergency grant program as a “lifeline to all those food service folks finding themselves without work through the holiday season.” He cites testimonials from two previous grant recipients, who said "The grant paid for my phone that month and helped so so so much!!!" and “In a time when I had no clue what was happening next, it was the surprise I needed. A little extra bit of hope."
“When we got word that restaurants were closing again, ahead of the holiday season, we knew we had to do something,” says Matase, who was previously associate publisher of Pittsburgh City Paper. “As we thought of all of the wonderful memories we've had at restaurants, the bread broken, and the drinks clinked, we ultimately thought of the people that make those memories a possibility.”
Qualified applicants must have worked in a food service establishment in Allegheny County in the last 180 days, and have either experienced a “reduction in hours or suspension in employment due to the COVID-19 crisis.”
Any additional funds left unclaimed will be donated to the Community Kitchen Project, a nonprofit focused on foodservice workforce development for adults who face barriers to employment.
“Our goal is $50,000 with TABLE kicking in incentives throughout the process,” says Matase. “We hope to start distributing as soon as possible, as we already have applications coming in. The need is so great, that I'm sure we will exceed the number of applicants than we can fulfill at the $50,000 mark.”
Across the country, the length of the pandemic has taken a toll on the restaurant and bar industry, with small, locally-owned establishments facing an especially bleak situation only expected to become worse in the winter months when outdoor dining is no longer an option and more stringent restrictions against indoor dining are put in place to curb the ever-worsening spread of COVID-19.
As City Paper recently reported, servers who do return to their jobs now face harassment from customers, risky working conditions, and much lower tips, shedding light on the underpaid, exploitative, and, many times, abusive nature of service work.
Interested applicants can enroll on a rolling basis with a form at tablemagazine.com/restaurantfund. TABLE will verify applicants in the order in which they enroll.
"We humbly ask for your generous support to help these folks this holiday season and help us exceed our goal, and to share that 'little extra bit of hope,’” says Matase.