How this nonprofit is helping hundreds of NYC restaurants adjust during the pandemic
Courtesy of Chef El-Amin
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When non-essential businesses in NYC were ordered to close in March, restaurants across the five boroughs were tasked to pivot fast or risk shuttering their doors for good.

The impact on the city's once vibrant restaurant scene was immediate and devastating. A national survey found that 250,000 people were laid off within 22 days and almost $2 billion in revenue was lost. And soon, numerous restaurant closures became permanent as the pandemic raged on and businesses were unable to keep up with rent and utility payments.

Hot Bread Kitchen, a New York City-based nonprofit and incubator that has assisted more than 275 local businesses in the food industry, knew they needed to support their affiliated businesses in a new light to navigate the financial complexities of shifting business models and applying for loans.

According to Hot Bread Kitchen's CEO Shaolee Sen, shortly after the shutdown began, a third of restaurant workers that they support had been laid off and another third were furloughed.


While Hot Bread Kitchen seeks to help minority-owned restaurants thrive and sustain a diverse workforce, Sen has seen the small business owners that Hot Bread Kitchen represents hit unequally hard compared to white small business owners during the pandemic.

"The majority of people who have been furloughed or laid off from their jobs are people of color," Sen said. "Our crisis response included direct cash assistance and wraparound support for food industry employees and entrepreneurs who have been disproportionately impacted by the economic effects of this crisis."

This support included emergency relief and the launch of a hotline to help Hot Bread Kitchen's alumni navigate hardship brought on by the pandemic, such as navigating unemployment, benefits, childcare, food resources and anxiety. After seeing overwhelming demand, Hot Bread Kitchen opened up the hotline to all food workers.

Courtesy of Hot Bread Kitchen

Hot Bread Kitchen was able to assist the small businesses it supports through the help of numerous partners and donors, including Capital One, who has provided grants to the nonprofit since 2012 and also helped Hot Bread Kitchen secure a loan to maintain employing its staff through the Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program as a small business banking customer.

"Capital One is proud to partner with Hot Bread Kitchen and share in its commitment to empowering women and businesses as they navigate the complex financial challenges brought on by the pandemic," says Theresa Bedeau, a vice president of Community Impact & Investment at Capital One who also serves on Hot Bread Kitchen's advisory board.

One of the hundreds of businesses that Hot Bread Kitchen helped was Chef El-Amin, a New Rochelle, New York-based healthy soul foods restaurant turned catering business that originally opened in 1985.

This wasn't the first time that founder and chef Yusef El-Amin had pivoted his business to address the needs of his community. In 2000, he became concerned by his local community's struggle with diabetes and obesity, so he transformed his menu of classic soul food items into healthier gluten-free or vegan options without compromising taste.

With dining-in no longer a safe option, El-Amin sought the help of Hot Bread Kitchen to pivot his restaurant's business model once again.

"Most people are staying in and feeding their families where they live, so why not bring our recipes right into their homes?" says Rakhya El-Amin, Chef Yusef's daughter and current CEO and Managing Director of Chef El-Amin.

Courtesy of Chef El-Amin

The restaurant quickly pivoted and is now bringing its fish fry seasoning into home kitchens from Florida to California.

"We're perfecting our seasonings and our sauces so we can ship them to anyone in the United States," Yusef said.

Hot Bread Kitchen has been an instrumental resource to Chef El-Amin during this transition.

According to Rakhya, they've helped Chef El-Amin zero in on creating the right product for its target market and expanding its offering of Halal, a traditionally underserved market in the US.

Hot Bread Kitchen has also helped them streamline the consumer packaged goods processing for Chef El-Amin products by arranging for state and local inspections, as well helping scale the business from a local favorite to a national powerhouse.

While Rakhya is proud to partner with Hot Bread Kitchen and encourage innovation among Black and Brown business leaders in her community, her focus is clear.

"I don't want people to buy from us just because we're an African American-owned business, I want people to buy from us and support our cause because it's the best product line out there," Rakhya said. "The whole team at Hot Bread Kitchen has been so supportive and we're really thankful to be aligned with such a wonderful organization."

The fasting period of Ramadan observed by Muslims around the world is a both an individual and communal observance. For the individual, it's a time to grow closer to God through sacrifice and detachment from physical desires. For the community, it's a time to gather in joy and fellowship at sunset, breaking bread together after abstaining from food and drink since sunrise.

The COVID-19 pandemic has limited group gatherings in many countries, putting a damper on the communal part of Ramadan. But for one community in Barcelona, Spain, a different faith has stepped up to make the after sunset meal, known as Iftar, as safe as possible for the Muslim community.

According to Reuters, Father Peio Sanchez, Santa Anna's rector, has opened the doors of the Catholic church's open-air cloisters to local Muslims to use for breaking the Ramadan fast. He sees the different faiths coming together as a symbol of civic coexistence.

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Courtesy of CeraVe
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"I love being a nurse because I have the honor of connecting with my patients during some of their best and some of their worst days and making a difference in their lives is among the most rewarding things that I can do in my own life" - Tenesia Richards, RN

From ushering new life into the world to holding the hand of a patient as they take their last breath, nurses are everyday heroes that deserve our respect and appreciation.

To give back to this community that is always giving so selflessly to others, CeraVe® put out a call to nurses to share their stories for a chance to be featured in Heroes Behind the Masks, a digital content series shining a light on nurses who go above and beyond to provide safe and quality care to patients and their communities.

First up: Tenesia Richards, a labor and delivery nurse working in New York City who, in addition to her regular job, started a community outreach program in a homeless shelter that houses expectant mothers for up to one year postpartum.

Tenesia | Heroes Behind the Masks presented by CeraVe www.youtube.com

Upon learning at a conference that black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women's health, Richards decided to take further action to help her community. She, along with a handful of fellow nurses, volunteered to provide antepartum, childbirth and postpartum education to the women living at the shelter. Additionally, they looked for other ways to boost the spirits of the residents, like throwing baby showers and bringing in guest speakers. When COVID-19 hit and in-person gatherings were no longer possible, Richards and her team found creative workarounds and created holiday care packages for the mothers instead.

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