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Food with Heart Restaurants Giving Back

By Andy Hume

Perhaps it’s the daily connection to individuals and regular interaction with the community that keeps so many hospitality workers involved in philanthropy. Serving people a nourishing meal can point out just how many are lacking them or those who may need nourishment in other aspects of their lives. In Food with Heart, we highlight two local institutions that are giving back by bringing more than just food to the table.

Perhaps it’s the daily connection to individuals and regular interaction with the community that keeps so many hospitality workers involved in philanthropy. Serving people a nourishing meal can point out just how many are lacking them or those who may need nourishment in other aspects of their lives. In Food with Heart, we highlight two local institutions that are giving back by bringing more than just food to the table.

Filomena’s Italian Kitchen & Market

Named for Chef and Owner Linda Johnsen’s grandmother, Filomena’s Italian Kitchen & Market of Costa Mesa is steeped in family history and warm, welcoming Italian tradition—so naturally, Johnsen lends a consistent hand in giving back to the community.
“We participate in at least 10 events each year that benefit the homeless, children, hunger, and medical causes that impact those in the community we serve,” explains Johnsen. “Specifically, The American Liver Foundation, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Alzheimer’s Family Center, The Golden Rule Charity, The Illumination Foundation, Share Our Selves, the Orange County Firefighters Association, as well as local schools and churches.” This is all quite a lot to be a part of, but then again, Johnsen’s upbringing preparing fresh, handmade pastas with Grandma Filomena, and days spent in the Italian markets of Philadelphia, have always kept her close to the community.

“With all of the money in Orange County, we should not be struggling with the issues we have here,” Johnsen adds. “I believe that it is every business owner’s responsibility to do something to give back.”

Having lost her brother to liver complications, Johnsen says The American Liver Foundation is particularly close to her heart. “We have a lot of guests who come in now specifically because they know we give back,” Johnsen says. “It becomes their way of giving back as well—they know it all comes back around.”

And Johnsen says Filomena’s Italian Kitchen & Market philanthropy will only continue to grow. In 2020, they are working to donate a portion of sales to St. Jude, her grandmother’s favorite charity.  When you share in the family tradition of Filomena’s, all of Orange County joins at the table.

Orange County Restaurant Association

At the OC Restaurant Association, the goal is promoting and strengthening the Orange County restaurant and hospitality communities. And, of course, building a stronger overall community will only help that mission advance, because mutual support is what it’s all about.

From feeding the hungry to helping underserved restaurant employees with healthcare, the Orange County Restaurant Association helps promote public betterment wherever they can. Association President Pam Waitt says, “I have always believed in the balance of give and take. This is one of the hardest working industries there is, and there is a lot of need. I’m honored to be on the board of Golden Rule Charity, which gives back to the industry we are part of.”

Golden Rule Charity helps hospitality workers with direct donations when family, home, and health emergencies strike.
“I’ve seen incredible things,” Waitt continues, “from families getting their holiday meals covered, chefs getting help with their medical bills, and smiles on the faces of hard-working dishwashers joyful for grants helping to pay bills they may have fallen behind on.”
Waitt says she hopes to expand the Orange County Restaurant Association’s charitable efforts in the future, saying, “I love what Bill Bracken at Bracken’s Kitchen is doing, and I’d like to do more to support his goals.”

Bracken’s Kitchen supports locals in need through a recovered food program, fun and healthy meal programs for children, and a culinary training program to help OC residents find stable employment.

“I’d love to work more on feeding those in need,” Waitt says. “I used to work on the board of Share Our Selves [an Orange County children’s meal program]. We should all have a passion to feed kids in need.”