When it launched in April, Newark Working Kitchens started with a vision to give back. In the heat of a pandemic that seemed to be getting worse by the day, Audible—which is headquartered in Newark—recognized the city’s residents needed help through the unprecedented times ahead.
So the company started Newark Working Kitchens (NWK), an organization that pays 24 local restaurants—including Marcus B&P, Barcade, Harvest Table, and Kilkenny Alehouse—to serve meals to Newark’s most at-risk populations. To date, the organization has provided more than 610,000 meals to Newark residents in need. Not only does the initiative help feed the hungry, but it simultaneously helps Newark restaurants keep their doors open, and their staff employed.
Local nonprofit organizations like Bridges Outreach, Newark Emergency Services for Families, Palm Street Block Association and others work closely with NWK to determine where meals are needed most, like low-income seniors and family and disabled housing.
“The response we’ve gotten from the people we serve, and from the community organizations we work with, has been so heartfelt,” says NWK spokesperson Matthew Thornton. He specifically recalled a disabled senior citizen whose Social Security money ran out, and reached out to Newark Working Kitchens for a Thanksgiving meal, as she was unsure she’d have anything to eat.
“We were able to quickly deliver her a holiday meal,” says Thornton. “Moments like these mean so much.”
Veteran Newark restaurants like McGovern’s, which opened its doors in 1936, had to lay off 75 percent of their staff when the pandemic hit. Newcomers Uncle Willie’s Wings, located in the South Ward of the city, just celebrated its one year anniversary—never expecting that it would need to survive under the circumstances 2020 has presented. Newark Working Kitchens is helping new and old restaurants stay afloat in a time of need.
Luis Valls-Amabile, owner and chef at Fresh Coast, said the first few weeks of the pandemic were the scariest. Uncertainty rattled his staff as they worried about losing their jobs and being unable to provide for their families. When approached by Newark Working Kitchens, Fresh Coast didn’t hesitate to take care of the people that have always been there for their business.
“It’s really been the difference between life and death in a lot of ways,” says Valls-Amabile.
Fresh Coast partnering with Newark Working Kitchens has not only allowed the restaurant’s staff to continue their regular hours, but also experiment with meals and grow as a business. As a place that typically serves poke and fish, chef Valls-Amabile said he was able to expand into other cuisines (like Italian) to make sure residents were getting a variety of meals.
As Covid-19 cases continue to rise in the state—with a recent surge that re-instituted curfews in Newark—citywide restrictions continue to impact the restaurant community. Hoping to enlist more restaurants in their organization, NWK is working to raise additional funds to continue their initiative. With a long road ahead, and more challenges to tackle as the new year comes, Newark Working Kitchens has created a model of hope that can be replicated throughout the nation.
“Investing in local small businesses is a critical way to build more resilient neighborhoods and cities,” says Thornton. “They are positioned to come back strong from this crisis.”
Newark Working Kitchens by Audible has delivered over 600,000 meals to Newark residents in need. Working with local restaurants has allowed the small business community to grow and employs many locals throughout the city. Go to NewarkWorkingKitchens.com for more info or to make a donation to help the organization continue to grow.Click here to leave a comment