The STOPit Solutions community is delighted to celebrate a tremendous achievement by one of our valued partners, Giving Kitchen.
After six years of providing Atlanta-area food service workers emergency assistance and resources, the nonprofit will be honored with the prestigious 2019 James Beard Humanitarian of the Year award at a ceremony in Chicago on May 6. The Humanitarian of the Year is awarded to an individual or organization whose work in the food services industry improves the lives of others and this is certainly true for Giving Kitchen.
This year, Giving Kitchen plans to use its platform as an influencer to engage workers more on issues of self-care and stability, such as mental health, suicide prevention, financial well-being, and eliminating stressors such as sexual harassment and discrimination from workplaces.
Bryan Schroeder, Giving Kitchen’s Executive Director and a guiding force building Giving Kitchen’s leadership legacy, noted that many small restaurant businesses don’t have plans in place to deal with harassment and their employees may not even know who to approach when it happens.
“There are no bad apples, only bad barrels,” he said. “I really do think that’s an important topic of discussion for restaurants to consider, recognizing that we are responsible for the work environments we create.”
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Schroeder seems to be playing a role he was born for. His parents opened their first restaurant in Rome, Georgia, when he was just three days old. Growing up, he was exposed to every facet of restaurant life, from washing dishes to the tough management decisions required of business owners. Yet, Schroeder felt a strong calling toward public service, which led him to pursue a masters degree from Georgia’s Institute for Nonprofit Organizations. Upon graduation, he spent a decade with the environmental advocacy organization the Georgia Conservancy.
When the Giving Kitchen position opened, he recognized a unique opportunity to marry his restaurant and nonprofit backgrounds and help make a difference in people’s lives, starting with Giving Kitchen. He and his team quickly began implementing changes that signaled a commitment to leading by example.
“It’s never too early for a small organization to start planning a future where you need really strong safeguards against abuse, malfeasance, embezzlement, sexual harassment or discrimination,” Schroeder said. “We’re a small organization now, but we’ve doubled in size since I started working there a year and a half ago, and we’ll probably double again in the next few years.”
Not yet a decade old, Giving Kitchen quickly outgrew its first office. Schroeder recalls its open setup as the kind of space that would work well for a tech startup, but did not offer the kind of anonymity and privacy its visitors needed. Today, it occupies a sizable office with a conference room and areas where people can feel at ease while talking about what’s happening in their lives.
But when asked to describe how it feels for Giving Kitchen to be recognized for its work as winner of the 2019 JBF Humanitarian of the Year award, Schroder is clear about who gets the credit, “When I hear people say Giving Kitchen changed Atlanta, it’s not anything we did,” said Schroeder. “It was Atlanta coming together to create Giving Kitchen that changed Atlanta.”
Giving Kitchen grew out of an overwhelming community response to assist Ryan Hidinger, a well-known Atlanta chef, with financial support to cover cancer treatment expenses that were not covered by insurance. Executive Director Bryan Schroeder credits those who came together to create Giving Kitchen with changing the region’s food industry forever by making the community more tight-knit and supportive of each other’s work.
Since its inception, Giving Kitchen has awarded $2.4 million in Crisis Grants to some 1,600 workers struggling with injuries, health problems, the loss of loved ones, housing issues and other emergencies. The organization also runs a Stability Network program that connects restaurant workers with social services such as mental health and child care assistance.