The best things in life come in pairs: coffee and doughnuts, popcorn and movies, sharing and caring. This year, the Harbor Foods Group team is offering new ways to adapt and thrive by pairing community and giving. They’re facilitating #HarborCares to provide food and resources to individuals, families, convenience stores and restaurants impacted by COVID-19 shut-downs.
#HarborCares is optimism embodied. Organizers hope to keep the region afloat as best they can by supporting industry worker’s needs throughout the community. “HarborCares was created to help us focus our philanthropic efforts towards causes most closely associated with the Harbor Family,” says Justin Erickson, Harbor Foods Group CEO and owner. “In our world, the Harbor Family begins with our own team members, extends to our customers, most of whom are small business owners, and then to our customers’ team members and their guests, the fabric of our local communities.”
Since the pandemic started, Harbor Foods Group has been working with Big Table, to keep food on tables of hard-hit restaurant workers, owners and staff. “So many restaurant owners risked everything to follow their dream of opening their own business,” Erickson shares. “Many have lost their livelihood and were forced to lay off the people who matter most. Despite those challenges, many owners continue to find creative ways to serve guests and keep their doors open, even if it’s not profitable. Our customers want to serve their communities, rebuild their families, and create incredible experiences for their guests. HarborCares exists to help our customers keep the dream alive.”
Lori Rinn is the Seattle city director of Big Table. They work tirelessly to find help for many who’ve lost income, stability and benefits. “As the pandemic continues on into its 10th month, those who work in the largest industry in the U.S. are continuing to be profoundly impacted,” says Rinn. “As a result, it is not uncommon to hear stories of a displaced dishwasher, waiter, cook or bartender whose hours have been cut or jobs eliminated that are four months behind in rent. With the pandemic, these wonderfully talented workers are now facing housing and food insecurity. We are grateful to HarborCares and their generosity in providing holiday meals for struggling industry workers.”
HarborCares gives in a variety of ways. They’ve provided more than 8,500 meals, over $150,000 in donations to local food banks, and supported 500 plus people with gifts and donations to help them during these difficult times. Partnering with Big Table, who accepts new recipients through their online referral process, goods and services get to where they’re needed quickly.
“I think so many people in need aren’t even talking about it,” says Nathan Stromberg, Harbor Foodservice business resource manager. “There is so much unknown desperation out there. Check in on your family members, friends and neighbors. You don’t always know when someone needs support. Don’t wait for people to ask, get out and take action. We are one big community and the only way through this is together. Someday soon we will be out on the town, in our version of the roaring ’20s, knowing that what we did today helped keep our small businesses open during the most difficult time of our lives.”
“I’m humbled and amazed by the big hearts and generosity of our industry and local restaurant owners in a time when few have extra to give,” Erickson agrees. “I don’t know many people who go into the restaurant and foodservice industry for financial reasons, it’s all about bringing people together, building relationships, creating experiences, and sharing our culinary creativity. Anyone who’s received excellent service at their local restaurant, from a familiar face, with a smile, recognizes that people serving guests in the restaurant industry are truly special. Those giving individuals have families of their own, life challenges, and difficulties of their own to face, yet they continue to serve their communities with heart and soul.”
Heart, soul and hope. “If there is one positive to take out of this experience it is the increase in comradery,” says Stromberg. “ Grocers and distributors working together making sure they have the food they need to support their communities, restaurants coming together finding creative ways to support their people, and companies getting more involved in the communities they are in. It has been inspiring, but the need is sobering and staggering. Everyone needs to continue to use their abilities and resources to help. Get creative, if you are good at something or have an abundance of something find a way to share. The need is massive in our communities and we need to do all we can to keep small businesses going. The next few months are going to be really difficult for small businesses.”
You can follow the project for Harbor Wholesale on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, Harbor Foodservice on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn or search the web for #HarborCares. Or sign up to become a one-time, monthly or corporate giving partner directly through Big Table. Look for these upcoming events and send a virtual (and financial) hug to your favorite restaurant, barista, waitress, bartender and chef.