In an initiative announced Wednesday by the City of Boston, a group of local minority-owned restaurants will be tapped to help serve free meals to those in need during the pandemic.
The program, called CommonTable, will be run by CommonWealth Kitchen, a nonprofit that provides a shared kitchen space in Dorchester to startup food businesses, most of which are minority-owned. It will provide free meals to needy families and seniors through a $461,688 grant from the Boston Resiliency Fund, which was created to serve the community as it weathers the crisis.
“Commonwealth Kitchen has been there for our most vulnerable communities. We’re happy to support them in this work, support more of our locally owned business, and expand our food resources for people who need it," Mayor Martin J. Walsh said during a press conference Wednesday, in which he announced the distribution of $1 million in grants to assist organizations throughout the city.
All told, the Boston Resiliency Fund has raised over $29.4 million since the pandemic started and has allocated more than $16 million to support food distribution, health care services, and remote-learning tools to help city residents.
Like many other organizations, the nonprofit kitchen had to pivot quickly during the coronavirus outbreak, said its president, Jen Faigel, as many of the small-business owners that run food trucks or supply food to local institutions have been forced to shut down.
The CommonTable effort started as the kitchen’s diverse network of food trucks, caterers, and restaurants began supplying food to front-line workers and families in need. Partnering with restaurants takes that idea one step further, Faigel said. Through the grant with the city, the nonprofit will be able to buy hundreds of meals from restaurants and have them delivered to designated meal sites. The program will be piloted with three restaurants, Tawakal Halal Café, 50Kitchen, and Achilitos Taqueria, with each providing a rotating selection of menu items available for pick-up.
“It’s a way to try to get some money to these little restaurants that are already struggling and will continue to be because of where they’re located and who their customer base is," Faigel said. “It’s about mobilizing our network, whose families are most impacted by the crisis, to be part of the solution."
By the end of May, Faigel expects to have more than 10 restaurants participating and will aim to have 20 in June.
For Anthony Caldwell, the chef and owner of 50Kitchen in Dorchester’s Fields Corner neighborhood, the program is an additional lifeline. Caldwell, who opened his restaurant in late February, has struggled to keep revenue coming in since the shutdown started. He’s now offering take-out three days a week, he said, but his food costs have gone up as shortages have hit the food-supply chain.
He said he supports the program’s mission of helping to feed hungry families, and that he’s hoping to supply 100 to 300 meals twice a week once the program is up and running, meaning he’ll be able to take in as much as $3,000 a week.
“If this takes off," he said, "this will be really good for me.”