A Sunday supper might bring up memories of home, but Matt Casey is cooking up food for a new family. He’s providing dinner for his service industry family.
“We’re trying to do something, I guess, because it helps keep our minds on the positive,” Casey said.
He owns Akademia Brewing Company, which is one of a handful of restaurants in Athens, Georgia, trying to help service industry workers who are now out of a job or strapped for cash due to the spread of COVID-19.
The program began shortly after Athens-Clarke County released a social distancing ordinance, which banned large gatherings, so those who need it can pick up supper curbside at Akademia’s location at 150 Crane Drive. Casey said the restaurant plans to continue providing free, hot meals every Sunday to any service industry worker in need for the foreseeable future.
Casey isn’t alone in trying to help out. Chuck Ramsey at Pulaski Heights BBQ is offering a free meal to any service industry worker who needs it. All they need to do is call in and ask, and later come in for curb-side pickup. Plates are available anytime during regular business hours.
FIVE Bar and Chuck’s Fish, owned by the same company, are handing out free food via a downtown food truck five days a week.
“It is for everybody, no questions asked,” said Dane Henderson, director of operations. The restaurants have been operating the truck before the COVID-19 pandemic started, through their charity organization, American Lunch.
Suddenly Without a Job
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the food service industry employed roughly 4.8 million people in 2019. The majority of those jobs belong to waiters and waitresses, who rely on tips they receive while working.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics also reported unemployment rates in the food services and drinking places industry jumped from 5.7 percent in February, to a staggering 8.5 percent just one month later, making it one of the hardest-hit industries.
Restaurant closures came after Athens-Clarke County mandated that restaurants switch to a take-out-only system and close their doors to guests. The county alone employs more than 10,000 working in food preparation and service, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Now, many of those individuals who once served us dinner are now relying on the help of others to find their own.
If you’re in need of a hot meal, you can check out Akademia Brewing Company or Pulaski Heights BBQ on Facebook for updates on food availability, as well as @americanlunch1 on Instagram for up-to-date food truck locations and times.
Celeste Springer is senior majoring in journalism at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.
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