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Grant initiative aims to help women-owned restaurants

Joanne Chang speaks with employees Meghan Gaffney and Madeline Foley.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Chef Joanne Chang, the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, and the Massachusetts Conference for Women announced a new joint initiative this week that will award $250,000 worth of grants to restaurants across the state. Each spot selected through a short application process ending Oct. 22 will receive $5,000 to put toward their business.

The only requirement? The restaurant must be at least 51 percent women-owned.

Chang, the founder of Flour Bakery in Boston and Cambridge, said the grants could very well help a few places stay open.

“There’s no strings attached to this grant,” she said in a phone interview. “Just knowing how many of my peers are struggling right now, it seems like a no-brainer.”


All the grant money will be donated by the Massachusetts Conference for Women, which originally intended to host a large, live event this year. That conference is now slated to be held virtually on Dec. 10 with a list of speakers that includes actress Awkwafina, author Doris Kearns Goodwin, and activist Rachel Cargle.

In a statement, the nonprofit’s board president Gloria Larson said she hopes the grants uplift women as they disproportionately shoulder the effects of the coronavirus crisis.

“The Massachusetts Conference for Women strives to elevate women in business and all areas of life,” said Larson. “Helping women-owned restaurants that have been impacted by COVID is directly in line with this mission and our efforts to promote women helping women.”

President of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association Bob Luz agreed.

While the entire restaurant industry in Massachusetts is in dire need of economic relief, there is still a disparity between the number of male- and female-run restaurants in the state," he said. “This grant program is just one piece of the puzzle. Within hours after the announcement, we had just under 100 applications, and they keep coming in.”


Restaurant owners can apply for the grants through a Google form found on www.massrest.org.

Diti Kohli can be reached at diti.kohli@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ditikohli_.

Diti Kohli can be reached at diti.kohli@globe.com. Follow her @ditikohli_.