Newark-based Audible is donating $1 million to create Newark Working Kitchens, a free daily meal delivery service that will provide 100,000 meals to Newark residents who are struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic, the company announced Friday.
“Our goal is simple: to keep our hometown community fed — and our fellow Newark business owners working,” the company said in a blog post, where it made the announcement.
Audible will work in collaboration with José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen, famed restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson and others on the program.
World Central Kitchen will provide logistical support and coordination with restaurants to prepare and deliver meals, track all meal distribution and track the impact on local restaurants in terms of job creation and revenue.
The Marcus Samuelsson Group is spearheading and piloting restaurant production using its Marcus B&P location as the initial production and distribution site. It distributed more than 2,000 meals already this week. The group will help identify and assist additional local restaurants in the effort. Each restaurant will be directly paid $10 for each meal produced.
Audible also said it is launching a mentorship program with Newark Venture Partners and Invest Newark to provide restaurant owners and other small businesses free guidance on how best to navigate available federal, state and local funding in response to COVID-19.
“We’re proud to work with World Central Kitchen and Marcus Samuelsson to make a difference together for our neighbors in a city hit harder than most by this crisis,” Don Katz, Audible’s founder and executive chairman, said in a release.
“These direct investments will help sustain the flywheel of the food economy in Newark by supporting restaurants that our employees visit every day.”
Audible said restaurants are the nation’s second-largest private employer, sustaining 15.6 million jobs with annual sales of $889 billion. By working directly with Newark restaurants and with World Central Kitchen, Audible said it hopes it can offer relief to local businesses during this difficult time and keep vital restaurant food distribution networks intact.
“A shared value among all of our organizations is the belief that we can harness the power of the culinary sector to improve food security in our communities,” the company said in a release. “During this time of crisis, we have a unique opportunity to address food insecurity for Newark’s most vulnerable by activating local restaurants who have experienced decreases in business due to the shelter-in-place orders in our city.
“While thousands of restaurants and commissary kitchens are closing and laying off workers, we are seeing an incredible demand to feed at-risk populations far beyond the current capabilities of our existing infrastructure.”
Samuelsson said he hopes the program can be copied across the country.
“We are proud to be uniting forces with Audible along with other Newark business leaders like L + M Development and Prudential to be able to serve as a major community food distribution center and hub for Newark and beyond,” he said. “By working together, we can harness the full power of each of our abilities to combat food insecurity in our local community during this extraordinary time of need.
“As this is now our third collaboration with World Central Kitchen across the country, we are even more motivated to help build a model that can be replicated and expanded quickly across our country and hopefully the world.”
World Central Kitchen CEO Nate Mook said he recognizes the need to work quickly.
“As food first responders, World Central Kitchen mobilizes with the urgency of now to get fresh meals to those who need them most,” he said. “This work and the speed at which we need to activate during this time of crisis would not be possible without incredible partners and local leaders who are bringing much needed aid to their communities as evidenced by the creation of Newark Working Kitchen and the work of Chef Marcus Samuelsson.”
Audible has a long history of supporting businesses in Newark. In 2017, the company launched a Lunch Out Wednesday program to subsidize hundreds of employees’ meals each week through the distribution of $15 voucher cards. Weeks before the COVID-19 outbreak, the program celebrated its 30,000th Lunch Out Wednesday visit.
“Headquartering our company in Newark is one of the best decisions Audible has ever made,” the company said in its release. “Continuing to invest in and support our community, in good times and challenging ones too, is as important as anything else we do.”