From restaurant and bar closures to sparse grocery aisles to layoffs and furloughs, there’s no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on the food and beverage industry. However, that hasn’t stopped the industry from stepping up and giving back in many ways to help those in need in these unprecedented times. While it is important not to come across as tone deaf or insensitive, there are many ways brands are getting involved in meaningful and impactful ways.
Pledging Donations to Relief
The simplest way brands are getting involved in COVID-19 relief is by pledging to donate funds directly to organizations providing relief. Kraft-Heinz announced in March that it would be donating $12 million to communities impacted by the pandemic. This included $1.9 million in cash and $4.7 million in products such as Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, Heinz Gravy, Planters Nut Mixes, and Devour frozen meals.
Delivering Meals to Those on the Front Lines
One way brands are helping out during the COVID-19 pandemic is by delivering meals to health care workers battling the virus in hospitals across the country. Sweetgreen, for example, is dedicating Outpost operations and teams to make and deliver free salads and bowls to hospitals in the cities it serves, while New England-based Papa Gino’s Pizzeria and D’Angelo Grilled Sandwiches have pledged to donate meals to healthcare facilities fighting the pandemic over the next 10 weeks. Nando’s Peri Peri has already provided nearly 16,000 free meals to healthcare workers and laid-off restaurant employees in the U.S.
Partnering with Charitable Organizations
Many brands in the food industry have also chosen to partner with charitable organizations to help those in need during the pandemic. Food delivery services such as DoorDash, FoodKick, FreshDirect, Freshly and Purple Carrot have all partnered with local, national and international non-profits such as United Way Worldwide, NY Common Pantry, Meals on Wheels and Feeding America to ensure Americans still have food on the table.
As restaurants can no longer serve their customers in the traditional sense, many are transforming their services to help those in need. Celebrity Chef José Andrés announced in March that he would transform eight of his New York City and Washington, DC restaurants into community kitchens for individuals and families who are struggling to put food on the table during the pandemic through his organization, World Central Kitchen. World-class restaurants are finding innovative uses for their spaces, such as NYC’s Eleven Madison Park, which transformed into a soup kitchen to serve those in its community. Panera Bread also announced last week that it will be establishing Panera Grocery, which will sell pantry items including milk, bread and fresh produce to help consumers get the hard-to-find items they need.
Donating Meals to Children in Need
Another major consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic is that children who usually receive free meals at school no longer have the same access. To aid in this issue, both McDonald’s and Burger King are offering free meals to kids who normally receive free lunches at school. KFC has partnered with the non-profit organization Blessings in a Backpack by pledging $400,000 to providing prepackaged meals to school children on the weekends.
While these brands are helping in any way they can during these times, Americans will continue to need help in the months to come. To learn more about and donate to Feeding America’s COVID-19 Response Fund, click here.