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California Is Paying Restaurants to Feed At-Risk Seniors

Restaurants + Bars News
by Matthew Meltzer Apr 27, 2020

California seems to have found a novel solution to a couple of problems caused by the novel coronavirus. Governor Gavin Newsom announced a plan on Friday to help restaurants generate revenue while at the same time getting meals to at-risk seniors.

The Restaurants Deliver: Home Meals for Seniors program will work with local restaurants to deliver three nutritious meals a day to in-need seniors. This will allow the elderly to stay healthy and stay home, as well as pump some much-needed life into the desperate hospitality industry. It’s being done in partnership with local governments and FEMA.

“This partnership will allow for the ability for restaurants to start rehiring people or keep people currently employed and start preparing meals — three meals a day, seven days a week — and have those meals delivered to our seniors,” Newsom said.

In order to qualify, seniors will have to be 600 percent below the federal poverty level, have been impacted or exposed to COVID-19, or have compromised immune systems, he continued.

On their end, the restaurants will receive $16 for breakfasts, $17 for lunches, and up to $28 for dinners. The stuff they serve doesn’t have to be straight off the menu, but it does have to have nutritional value. The state will set the nutritional guidelines for the program somewhat like is done for school lunches, but Newsom says he wants the meals to focus on buying local as well.

“I keep saying nutrition for a reason,” he said. “We want to make sure we’re focused on locally produced produce. We want to connect our farms to this effort. We want to focus our values throughout the state of California to get a lot of independent restaurants up and running again as well and have a diversity of options — and make sure that what we’re sending to our seniors is low sodium.”

The state set up a website with details on the program and how interested seniors can apply. Local governments, however, will be the ones making final decisions.

The program is the first of its kind in the nation, and though FEMA will be picking up 75 percent of the bill, it’ll be an interesting test case to see if the state can utilize these emergency funds to get people back to work.

California may not be opening its world-class restaurants any time soon, but this is a chance for them to get a little more business going out the door and help people in need in the process. In theory, it sounds like a win-win. And perhaps can be a model for other states to follow as we inch closer to the end of this era.

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