California's New "High Road Kitchens" Initiative To Unite Struggling Restaurants To Feed Those Most In Need

May 2, 2020

California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a new program this week aimed to unite independent restaurants in a mission to provide food on a sliding scale to low-wage workers, health care workers first responders, and others in need.

Seven weeks after California restaurants were ordered to close their dining rooms, Governor Newsom announced yesterday the new High Road Kitchens program, which will provide $5,000 to qualifying restaurants so they can give up to 500 complimentary or reduced-priced meals to those in need. Locally, to assist in jumpstarting the campaign, the San Diego Workforce Partnership has announced that local restaurants participating in the program will be offered $10-15,000 to rehire workers. Two San Diego restaurants are currently participating in the program - Super Cocina in City Heights and Ponce's Mexican Restaurant, which has locations in Kensington and Carmel Vally. In San Diego, the Workforce Partnership aims to grow the program to up to 15 local restaurants, who must take a pledge to champion living wages, basic benefits and fair promotion policies for employees in order to qualify.

"We estimate more than 10 million service workers have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 crisis; most are ineligible for unemployment insurance either because of their immigration status, their hours, or, most frequently, their wages and tips are too low to meet the minimum requirement to receive benefits," reads the High Road Kitchens website. "Employers in our industry are also struggling, especially small business operators that do not have the same access to capital as big business. In this way, COVID-19 has revealed some of the deep inequities of the service sector that required change before the crisis: race, gender, occupational and wage inequities that have made the industry unsustainable for most."

At Ponces, people are directed to order online in advance. Sliding scale meal options include free with no questions asked, $5 to cover cost of the meal, $10 to cover cost of a meal and $20 to donate a family meal. The pro-offered items will change frequently if not daily. We reached out to Super Cocina to see how they are operating the program and are waiting to hear back.

High Road Kitchen is operated by One Fair Wage - an organization advancing policy, driving industry change, and shifting the narrative in order to ensure that all workers in America are paid a full, fair minimum wage with tips on top. One Fair Wage oversees RAISE (Restaurants Advancing Industry Standards in Employment), a High Road Employer Association that supports restaurant owners in advocating for sustainable business models that champion living wages, basic benefits and fair promotion policies. These employers represent over 800 progressive restaurants across the U.S. in all sectors of the industry - from fine dining to quick-casual. The organization also operates The Cooking Project, which teaches young people fundamental cooking skills in order to demystify the culture of food, make good food more accessible, and equip young people to successfully take on challenges in the kitchen and out.

For more information about High Road Kitchens, visit highroadkitchens.com. San Diego restaurants interested in participating in the program should contact Mikey Knabb at mikey@onefairwage.org.