The Roots Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to creating inclusive opportunities for communities of color throughout the wine industry, is seeking a new round of scholarship applicants, specifically for people already working in the hospitality industry. The S.T.E.P Scholarship was created in partnership with emergency relief fund Southern Smoke Foundation to elevate restaurant staff who have been displaced or are struggling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hispanics in Wine has partnered on this initiative to amplify and support within its community.

The scholarship guidelines and application form are available online at and will be open through March 12.

“The pandemic has opened people’s eyes to the enormous strain on restaurant professionals. Hospitality workers were left unemployed with no safety net, and the industry was forced to address the harsh realities of low wages, lack of career growth, and the absence of benefits,” says Ikimi Dubose-Woodson, executive director of The Roots Fund. “Moreover, communities of color felt the biggest impact from this.”

Dubose-Woodson adds, “Our S.T.E.P scholarship fund seeks to address this by welcoming more people into the wine industry who may be lacking the resources to pursue their goals. We hope this will encourage more BIPOC people to pursue professional wine education.”

This scholarship round is open to waiters, busboys, bartenders, chefs, tasting room hosts, sales associates, and anyone who is actively working in the industry. Applicants must be currently enrolled in a wine education program. The scholarship awards will range from $1,000–20,000 per individual, based on need. The next general scholarships will open on April 18–30.

The Roots Fund is happy to partner with Southern Smoke Foundation on these scholarships. Southern Smoke Foundation has been at the forefront of providing funding to individuals in the food and beverage industry who are in crisis. Since 2017, their emergency relief fund has distributed more than $8.9 million to individuals in the food and beverage industry in crisis.

In addition to 100-plus scholarships The Roots Fund has created since its foundation, it recently announced a new pilot program with the Champagne region of France. Champagne House Ruinart agreed to pilot a hospitality intern position, focusing on service and expertise in Champagne. The Roots Fund scholar Balkis Johnson will be moving to Champagne, France, this summer for a six-month internship at Ruinart. The partnership not only creates access but the necessary support to build a sustainable career. In 2022, The Roots Fund is planning three enrichment trips to champagne in which our scholars will get to study with a variety of growers in the region.

The Roots Fund is a nonprofit organization focused on securing the pathway for the BIPOC community in wine. Built to create financial support for education, mentorship, and job placement opportunities, The Roots Fund is out “doing the work,” to create inclusivity for communities of color in the wine industry. Since its foundation in 2020, it has raised more than a half million dollars and created more than 100 scholarships that will bring years of change and equity into the wine industry.

Bar Management, Industry News