Reno restaurant industry helps its own with free meals for hospitality employees out of work
This time, they're the ones being served.
Hospitality workers who have been laid off, furloughed or have had their hours reduced during the coronavirus shutdown now can receive free meals, thanks to Nevada Hospitality Industry Partnerships, a new initiative to support the Northern Nevada hospitality industry.
Beginning April 20, meals will be served Monday, Wednesday and Friday from the service entrance of Liberty Food & Wine Exchange, 100 N. Sierra St. in downtown Reno. The service entrance is in Fulton Alley, off West First Street behind the restaurant.
Since Gov. Steve Sisolak's order shutting down non-essential businesses on March 20 to slow the coronavirus, many free meals have been donated to healthcare workers and first responders, and "that's awesome. I love it," said chef Mark Estee of Reno Local Food Group, a founder of Nevada HIP and a participant in such efforts.
"But what I also witnessed is, 'Who is taking care of the people who are out of work — specifically in the hospitality industry?' This is a case where we can help our own. Take care of our people until we can get back to work."
Planning to supply nearly 1,000 meals a week
To receive meals, folks must demonstrate their employment in the hospitality industry by showing a pay stub, name tag, uniform or other proof. To begin, Estee said he was prepared to serve up to 300 reheatable meals a day, with each meal serving two to three people.
For the first week, Reno Local Food Group is donating the labor and US Foods, a national food service distributor and partnership sponsor, is donating food and supplies (takeout packaging, for instance, can be expensive), with a 50 percent discount after that.
"I am begging for anyone to step in and help us" with money, time or other donations, the chef said. "This is just a temporary solution."
How to donate money, time or supplies
M&A Businesses Advisors already has donated $1,000. Its managing partner and co-founder Katrina Loftin, also a founder of Nevada HIP, is taking shifts "to cook, serve, wherever they need me," she said.
"The Paycheck Protection Program already ran out of money," she continued, referring to a federal COVID-19 assistance program for small businesses like restaurants. "So, a lot of people can’t rehire their employees. These people will be out of work for who knows how long. We just felt like it was really important to make sure these people have something to eat."
Meals the first week will feature green chile rice with chicken thighs, said chef Estee, who figured his team could make each meal for about $3 through savvy purchasing, the US Foods discount, and donations of money, labor and supplies.
Donations can be made here or by emailing info@NevadaHIP.com. Additional meal locations could be added as resources permit.
The other founders of the Nevada HIP are Cheree Boteler of Hungry in Reno on Facebook, Randi Reed of Haus of Reed furniture design, Blake Smith of S3 Development Co., and Jessica Schneider of Junkee Clothing Exchange.
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