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Uplifting ways that businesses are helping their communities

Thank you sign posted on side of road
Photo by Nicholas Bartos

“It has been an emotional roller coaster since the Coronavirus has hit home,” said Andia Xouris of Andia’s Homemade Ice Cream in Cary, N.C. “We are adjusting daily to the best of our ability to make ends meet, and we just pray and hope that we can stay open and our fans will keep coming back to patronize our business. The only good thing that comes out of a crisis like this is the good that comes out of human nature—one person helping another.”

These times are certainly full of emotion, as Andia said, but as communities rally around each other, it is clear that we are all in this together and here to lift each other up whenever possible. We’ve gathered some of the most encouraging ways that businesses are helping their communities, in hopes that it’ll spark an idea for your own community.

Free meals for children, families, and the elderly

Huge waves of assistance have been extended to groups that are facing particular challenges and risks during the pandemic, with restaurants and food businesses leading the charge to keep vulnerable groups fed.

  • Havana Café in Pasco, Wash. is handing out free meals and books donated from the Children’s Reading Foundation to kids. It is also asking parents to bring a children’s book to donate when they pick up a free kids’ lunch.
  • Que Viet in Minneapolis is serving free fried rice for kids.
  • Hope Breakfast Bar in St. Paul, Minn. is giving out free breakfast meals—one day’s service contained 200 pounds of chicken egg bake, 100 pounds of pulled pork, 150 pounds of hash browns, 100 pounds of vegetables, and 200 quiche—plus you can donate to feed a hungry family.
  • In Sacramento, Calif., five restaurant owners launched a program called Family Meal that supplies thousands of elderly and at-risk community members with free, pre-cooked meals. Participants are from Allora, Camden Spit + Larder, Canon, Binchoyaki, and Mulvaney’s B & L
  • Joella’s Kitchen—which started in Louisville, Ky. and now has locations in five states from Florida to Ohio—is providing free meals to kids 10 and under on weekdays.
  • In Long Beach, Calif., The Attic on Broadway announced that it is giving away free burritos to kids under 18.

Supporting restaurant industry workers

Restaurants and bars are some of the hardest hit industries during COVID-19, and many businesses and programs are going above and beyond to assist those who are out of work.

  • In Miami, Jaguar Sun is serving family meals to out-of-work restaurant workers while continuing to pay its employees a weekly stipend and health insurance.
  • The Lee Initiative: Restaurant Workers Relief Program has turned restaurants across the country into relief centers. Over 100,000 meals have been served by 19 restaurants for restaurant workers who have been laid off or have had a significant reduction in hours or pay.
  • Chef Michael Mina launched the Mina Family Kitchen’s Family Meal: free meals for Mina Group employees, plus 20 percent off for all bar and restaurant industry employees.
  • At Prairie in San Francisco, you can donate a pantry kit (for pick-up or delivery) to recently laid-off restaurant workers and members of the restaurant community.
  • Death & Co is enlisting experts in hospitality, law, and mental health to help affected workers (like their own bartenders) through “Ask Me Anything” sessions in Death & Co’s Instagram Stories.

Pay-what-you-can meals

With so many struggling to pay for basic expenses, the pay-what-you-can model has emerged as a way for restaurants to keep their doors open and for those in need to still get food on the table.

  • Zen Box Izakaya is dishing out pay-what-you-can ramen bowls in Minneapolis.
  • Chicago’s Fat Rice serves pay-what-you-can meal kits to industry workers that have been laid off.
  • Provision Community Restaurant, which regularly operates under the pay-what-you-can model, has also offered to take excess product and turn it into free meals that will be available for pickup.
  • In Kansas City, Black Sheep offers a pay-what-you-can grilled cheese and tomato soup dish every day for lunch.
  • Breakfast Republic is providing prepared meals to laid-off San Diegans—a donation is welcome, but the meal is free for those who need it.

Helping on the front lines

As healthcare professionals, first responders, grocery store employees, and other frontline workers strive to keep our communities safe, the outpouring of gratitude and support for these critically essential workers has been monumental.

  • Coffeeholic in Seattle donated hundreds of cups of coffee to local Seattle hospitals—all within its second week of being open.
  • Feed a Hero is a new program—put on by New York’s Fat Buddha and OMOMO—that supplies meals to hospital workers. Donors can either buy a single meal or a 10-pack. Once the order is large enough to feed an entire department, they ship it out to the hospital.
  • In Arizona, restaurants eegee’s, Prep & Pastry, and Commoner & Co. delivered breakfasts, lunches, and dinners to grocery stores throughout Tucson.
  • Home Coffee Roasters in San Francisco is partnering with Berkeley’s Third Culture Bakery and Jade Leaf Matcha to bring coffee, oat milk matcha lattes, mochi muffins, and more to healthcare professionals and first responders.
  • Feed The Line is a donation-based program where 100 percent of donations goes to restaurants preparing food (tip included), and 100 percent of the food goes to hospital workers.
  • Party Line Rentals of Elmsford, N.Y. is sharing its vast inventory of tents—typically used for weddings, private parties, and corporate events—to help set up medical facilities for Coronavirus testing and decontamination in the tristate area, including the first drive-through testing site at Glen Island in New Rochelle.

Free business and educational tools and services

Staying connected during these times is more important than ever, and many businesses have stepped up to help those in need with everything from laptops for students to skilled courses for adults.

  • The New York City Department of Education is lending internet-enabled iPads to support remote learning for students.
  • Spectrum is giving free internet access to qualifying homes with students or teachers.
  • Email marketing service Mailchimp is offering a free .com for up to five years, in addition to the already free website builder and other digital tools.
  • Educational organization General Assembly is offering Free Fridays—a 100 percent free lineup of its favorite workshops, updated weekly online, with themes like digital marketing, data analytics, project management, UX design, and more.
  • Transcription service Rev is offering free live captions on Zoom meetings for K-12 teachers.
  • Companies like Apple, Amazon, T-Mobile, Verizon, HP, and Microsoft have donated tens of thousands of laptops and tablet-type devices and money for California to distribute to students who may not have access to electronics at home.
  • Germantown Copy Center in Germantown, Md. donated banner signage to local mom-and-pop restaurants, breweries, and food trucks to help them notify customers of new hours, curbside takeout, delivery, and more. They’re now offering free workplace safety posters for their neighboring businesses.

Larger businesses lending a hand

With low-income communities so heavily impacted by the effects of the Coronavirus, many large corporations are contributing funds, equipment, and more to help boost recovery efforts in those areas.

  • Jordan Vineyard & Winery owner John Jordan and his foundation wrote a $150,000 check to Sonoma Family Meal, which pays restaurants to provide healthy, chef-made meals to those in need.
  • Sustainable clothing company Everlane is donating 100 percent of the profits from its Human collection to Feeding America’s COVID-19 Response Fund.
  • The CEO of Twitch contributed $1 million to Three Babes Bakeshop’s Lenore Estrada to start SF New Deal, a program dedicated to “keeping small businesses in business.”
Pies from Three Babes Bakeshop
Photo from Three Babes Bakeshop on Yelp
  • Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter and Square, plans to donate $1 billion to relief programs. All of the expenditures will be publicly displayed in a Google doc for full transparency.
  • Chevrolet is offering complimentary in-vehicle data for Wi-Fi and OnStar® Crisis Assist services for a limited time to current eligible Chevrolet owners.
  • New York received an enormous amount of donations, like 1,000 hospital mattresses from Boll and Branch and a million masks from UNIQLO.
  • Millionaires and billionaires in the tech sector are donating large sums to San Francisco’s Che Fico Family Meal, where anyone can sign up for a free meal.
  • Portland’s Jupiter Hotel is transitioning into a temporary homeless shelter, intended for short-term stays while people recover from illness.
  • Oakland-based payment-processing company Marqeta started the Oaklanders Supporting Oaklanders Initiative. They are paying for meals at restaurants like Brown Sugar Kitchen to be delivered to select local nonprofits and hospitals. 

This information was accurate at the time of publication, but because things are constantly changing, we suggest checking with the business directly regarding any information listed here.

Want to share other ways you or other businesses are helping their communities? Tweet us at @yelpforbusiness or email

The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.

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