In 2020, the James Beard Foundation (JBF) became the foundation that launched a thousand think pieces. The vaunted organization came under fire from various fronts for its lack of Black winners while shining the spotlight on several nominees who were accused of bad behavior (including—in what seems to be an excessively low bar—selling moldy food); its unwillingness to revise voting procedures at the request of its own volunteer awards committee; its announcement that it wouldn’t be bestowing its eponymous awards this year or next; and its inability to be James Beard-y (the man, not the myth) enough.
The Foundation is now trying to improve on at least one of those fronts. It has announced the creation of the JBF Food and Beverage Investment Fund for Black and Indigenous Americans, a first-come, first-served grant program for Black and Native-owned food and drink businesses.
As we noted in our feature story “Focus Point,” BIPOC entrepreneurs lack the same access to capital as their white counterparts. Plenty of studies over time back this statement (here are three.) JBF’s new fund hopes to bridge a portion of that gap by providing grants of $15,000 to restaurants that are at least 51 percent owned by Black or Indigenous people with 50 or fewer full- or part-time employees. Full and counter service joints as well as businesses without a brick-and-mortar location (food trucks, stalls, pop-ups and food and drink consultants) will all be eligible.
The JBF hasn’t yet started accepting applications (it’s waiting until it’s secured enough donations to cover a full round of grants), but it’s encouraging owners to get ahead of the game and gather complete documentation so they can apply as soon as the application window opens. Money will be distributed to eligible restaurants in the order their applications are received.
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