With a steadfast mission to strengthen California’s diverse restaurant community by supporting its current and future workforce, the California Restaurant Foundation (CRF) has proudly wrapped up a critical year of providing aid, recovery efforts, access to higher education and enriched culinary education for independent restaurant owners, their workers and teens aspiring to join the industry. Through a combination of generous donors, successful events and grants, the nonprofit provided financial assistance to 470 independently-owned restaurants throughout California, 88 grants to restaurant employees through its Restaurants Care program, 44 college scholarships and career exploration opportunities to 13,500 high school students as part of its ProStart initiative.
One of the foundation’s largest programs, Restaurants Care raises money to support individuals in California’s restaurant industry who face life-altering emergencies. In 2022, Restaurants Care provided financial assistance to 88 restaurants workers ranging from servers and hosts to dishwashers and chefs, allowing them to ease the stress of financial burdens caused by unexpected challenges like serious illness, death in the family and severe accidents. For the second year in a row, Restaurants Care partnered with PG&E, SoCal Gas, SDG&E and Wells Fargo to offer the Resilience Fund, a $1.7 million relief program that awarded $3,000 grants and a year of business support services to 470 independent restaurant owners across California. Providing struggling restaurants with a much-needed safety net, the financial aid offered through the Resilience Fund enabled owners to upgrade equipment or award bonuses to their loyal, hardworking employees.
“Every year, I’m humbled by the generosity of our partners and donors who make our work possible,” says Alycia Harshfield, Executive Director of CRF. “As our restaurant community continues to recover from the pandemic, face uncertain economic times and weather all the unanticipated storms ahead, we are constantly impressed by the industry’s positive outlook and tenacity. We will continue to join forces with donors to safeguard restaurants and industry workers to help keep California’s food scene vibrant and diverse.”
The California Restaurant Foundation was founded in 1981 as a scholarship fund and in 2022, CRF awarded $130,000 in scholarships to 44 students to support their dreams of achieving a college degree – many of whom are the first in their family to attend college. Further promoting CRF’s mission to invest in and prepare the future of the restaurant industry, ProStart is a national high school culinary arts and restaurant management youth program that is active in 140 public high schools and reaches 13,500 students across the state of California. Since the start of the program, CRF has seen hundreds of students graduate from their high school programs and pursue further culinary and foodservice education. Impressively, many ProStart graduates have gone on to work in Michelin-star restaurants or open their own successful establishments shortly after graduation.
Over the past year, CRF has partnered with over 75 local, statewide and national businesses to become a resource offering financial assistance to those at the heart of California’s diverse restaurant communities and future culinary workforce. In 2022, CRF’s generous donors and partners included EMPLOYERS, BJ’s Restaurant Foundation, Wienerschnitzel, Coca-Cola, Habit Burger Grill, Gavińa Gourmet Coffee, Sysco, FreshPoint, SAVOR ASM Global and ECOLAB.
“I am honored to be part of an organization that serves California’s future and current workforce through high school culinary education, scholarships for college, and financial assistance,” says Brett Berglund, President of Sysco Corporation’s Los Angeles region and Chair of the Board of Directors for CRF. “Restaurants are the cornerstone of our neighborhoods and communities, and it is important to set an example for supporting causes that make a difference in our industry and the people who make it so very special.”