Community Highlight: SF New Deal

Before the COVID-19 pandemic swept the U.S., Lenore Estrada baked for Three Babes Bakeshop in San Francisco, CA. The business’s twenty-six employees mainly catered offices, and their specialty made them understand the unpredictable nature of seasonal work. When the virus hit the city, local government instituted a shelter-in-place order aimed at protecting businesses and residents. Despite familiarity with the ups and downs of food service, the risk they faced was unprecedented.

The same day that San Francisco officially implemented self-isolation restrictions, Estrada’s college friend, Emmett Shear, called her to find out how he could donate and protect local restaurants. Shear is the founder and CEO of Twitch, a popular video streaming platform. He contributed $1M to the cause and on March 23rd, Estrada launched the nonprofit organization SF New Deal.

Because of the pandemic, Three Babes Bakeshop had to lay off twenty workers and cut everyone else’s hours in half just to stay afloat. Estrada realized she could get more done by dedicating herself to SF New Deal, and she now commits herself full time to volunteering in the organization.

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What They Do

The nonprofit raises money to help communities and businesses based in San Francisco. They buy meals in bulk from local restaurants, thus providing them with the funds needed to hire back a lot of their laid off employees; in some cases they were able to bring back half their workforce. By generating profit for them, SF New Deal helps local businesses in their community while also donating those meals to people in need all over the city. They do their best to avoid cross-contamination or outside infection by wrapping the food in special packaging and sealing it with extra care before delivery.

Because of the sheer volume of work they’ve taken on, SF New Deal can’t handle distribution all on their own. In their words, they “partner with grassroots organizations who are already providing services to communities in need to identify individuals and families who need our help. In coordination with our partners, we distribute food to street clinics, public housing sites, SROs, churches and homes.” These partner organizations, mental health services and additional coalitions already have the resources and systems in place to help disenfranchised individuals.

They try to provide healthy, nourishing and culturally relevant food to the people receiving their deliveries.

The menus that participating restaurants curate for this cause are up to their discretion; it doesn’t even have to come from the menu they show customers. As long as their provided meals are nourishing and substantial, they have license to deliver any meals they can with their limited funds and minimal onsite staff.

SF New Deal has already delivered over 70K meals across San Francisco and connected with fifty participating restaurants. They also have another fifty on their waitlist. They’ve prioritized restaurants owned by women and people of color to further support those most marginalized in their community but of course don’t limit their partnerships to these specific businesses. They also give primary attention to restaurants who can handle their own delivery, though they also don’t exclude those who lack the resources; for smaller restaurants with no delivery system readily in place, SF New Deal finds a volunteer to handle outreach.

What They Need

Despite the large initial donation of $1M, they still need additional funding to provide the continued care they need. Although they can’t accept every restaurant hoping to join, they’re still taking volunteer applications on their website as well as contributions from private donors. They rely entirely on private donations to ensure they can keep buying in bulk from restaurants without charging recipients for the meals.

SF New Deal currently gives approximately $200K each week to restaurants, or $30K each month to individual businesses, and need funds so they can continue supporting the food service industry. They provide both single and four-person family meals to senior citizens, people living with pre-existing conditions, homeless people, the poor, people caught in the criminal justice system and other vulnerable individuals. In particular the nonprofit dedicates themselves to supporting “communities of color and immigrants, who will disproportionately shoulder the burden of this crisis,” as explained on the organization’s website. They work tirelessly to deliver thousands of meals to vulnerable individuals every day.

Funding relief efforts like this one is enormously beneficial to suffering communities because privately funded organizations work faster than systems set in place by federal legislation. Official revenue streams, like FEMA, the CARES Act and other government programs take weeks and sometimes months to pay out, especially when crises like COVID-19 affect such a large number of people. The system is clogged with requests. SF New Deal wants to guide people and restaurants through the interim period before their government benefits and other supplementary income streams kick in.

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SF New Deal and other nonprofit organizations are working tirelessly to provide food and financial assistance to people and restaurants in cities negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Though restrictions on stay-at-home and social distancing began to lift all over the country this month, and San Francisco is opening certain nonessential business operations as well, restaurants and community members are still struggling to contend with the ongoing and long-lasting effects of the virus. By organizing community members, donating much needed time and money, and providing assistance to San Francisco residents who need it most, SF New Deal sets an outstanding example for people looking to assist their local communities in this time of crisis.

For more information on SF New Deal, visit their website for volunteer and donation opportunities.

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