Negroni Week News

Fundraising Spotlight: Hot Bread Kitchen

September 7, 2020

It didn’t take the fallout of a pandemic for Hot Bread Kitchen to recognize the need for a stronger food system. And although COVID-19 has changed the way the organization works, its mission remains the same.

The renowned New York City-based nonprofit has been operating since 2008, serving women, immigrants, and people of color through job training and placement in the food industry. Aiming to make the industry a more inclusive, equitable and, ultimately, a more sustainable place for workers, Hot Bread Kitchen has grown into a robust organization encompassing a workforce development program and a small business incubator that includes a stall at the Chelsea Market. “We believe in the power of food to offer opportunity: it is accessible and global and it’s where so many people get their first start,” says Hot Bread Kitchen CEO Shaolee Sen. More than 280 Hot Bread Kitchen alumni have been placed in jobs around New York City, while the incubator has served more than 250 food businesses—90 percent of which are run by women and people of color.

With the outbreak of the coronavirus—a disease that disproportionately impacts communities of color in the U.S.—Hot Bread Kitchen alumni and small business owners were hit hard economically: More than 40 percent of workforce program alumni lost their jobs as stay-at-home orders were enacted and 64 percent of active incubator member businesses experienced a revenue decrease. Hot Bread Kitchen quickly pivoted to provide cash assistance to its alumni and incubator members. Launched in March, the nonprofit’s Emergency Fund raised and distributed $260,000 to 177 food workers and small business owners experiencing an income gap, reduced hours, or canceled sales. The critical relief helped cover basic necessities and assist entrepreneurs with grants for production, rent arrears, and other expenses.

Hot Bread Kitchen is also in the process of refocusing its programs through a lens of racial equity following the police killing of George Floyd in May and the anti-racism movement that followed. While the organization has always worked to provide economic opportunity to those impacted by racial, social, and economic inequality, it is re-dedicating itself to addressing structural barriers for BIPOC in the food industry, seen in funding gaps for entrepreneurs of color, underrepresentation of people of color in management, and the instability of low-wage, entry-level food jobs.

With the CARES Act going unrenewed by Congress, Hot Bread Kitchen is entering a second round of funding for stipends—which money raised from Negroni Week will go toward—that will directly support its clients as well as new programming around remote skill-based learning and access to market for entrepreneurs. While the nonprofit continues to provide immediate assistance, it’s working for long-term structural change and support, done with the belief the industry can be built back better. “We know a reimagined food industry must include more worker protections—better schedules, time to take care of family members, and benefits. It’s going to take a true commitment to diversity, inclusion, equity, and allyship—we need everyone’s voice at the table making food ecosystems that truly work for everyone,” says Sen.

Click here to donate to Hot Bread Kitchen today.

Story Emma Mannheimer | Photo courtesy of Hot Bread Kitchen