Organizations hoping to help the food industry in Columbus during COVID-19 pandemic

Updated: Mar. 27, 2020 at 6:35 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - The food service industry employs more than 13 million people around the country and is a vital part of the economy.

During the COVID-19 outbreak, many restaurants are closed or to-go only, which is adding stress to servers who work paycheck to paycheck. Bbut two organizations are hoping to help out in this trying time.

The streets of Uptown Columbus are bare compared to a normal day before the COVID-19 pandemic. Chairs sit empty outside many restaurants as to-go and delivery are the only options now.

“Sales are a lot different," Samurai server Krystal Plott said. "We’ve probably lost 90 to 95 percent of our business.”

“You know, we live paycheck to paycheck," said 11th and Bay’s CEO, Michael Harrell. "All of us do. So, the day we shut our doors we’re all in the same boat.”

“Once money becomes a problem and there’s less hours for everybody, it’s starting to get stressful,” said Your Pie employee Joel Oliver.

The food service industry makes up more than 420,000 people in Georgia. 20,000 of those are in Columbus.

In order to help keep employees afloat during this time of crisis, B&B Beverage Company is donating $20,000 to The Giving Kitchen, who in turn, is giving that money to food service workers who may be out of work or strongly impacted by the coronavirus.

“[They] provide direct assistance to those in need," said B&B Beverage Company President David Lewis. "they pay their rent or power bill as well as a great network of resources that they can point people to.”

“Think about that server, that food service worker, that favorite chef you have or bartender, and if they’re affected today by COVID-19 or by an illness, an injury, whatever it may be today,” said Jen Hidinger-Kendrick, co-founder of The Giving Kitchen. “Think about the stability they don’t have right now because they’re out of work.”

The Giving Kitchen is no stranger to food service workers in the Chattahoochee Valley.

“In fact, the Giving Kitchen provided aid to one of our primary staff members who’s worked for us for many, many years a couple of years ago," said The Loft’s General Manager Aaron Long, general manager of The Loft.

“We’ve actually had someone in our restaurant get helped out a lot by that," Oliver said.

With no known date for restaurants to fully re-open, the funds Giving Kitchen will provide to food industry workers is essential.

“We’re paid by tips, so every little bit counts, whether it’s one dollar or five dollars," Plott said.

“[The goal] is to help keep a roof over someone’s head, help keep the lights on for someone in their time of need, and it’s really offering the stability they may need to stay at home, heal, and get back to work," Hidinger-Kendrick said.

“I don’t know what this is going to be like for how long. Once people run out of their own money, are they going to keep ordering food?” Oliver asked.

“Anyone who has ever gone out and enjoyed a meal, enjoyed the time with their server, with the owner, the chef, needs to really look and see what ways they can help the industry," Long said.

If you work in the food service industry, the Giving Kitchen is available to help you with financial assistance or resources like mental health.

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