In light of the coronavirus pandemic, Filipino Americans around the country —  particularly small business owners and those in the health care field — are trying to navigate how to survive on a daily basis.

Fil-Am restaurants, which have been staples in their communities for years and have even garnered awards and mainstream attraction, are reporting a decrease in revenue following cities’ restrictions that limit serving food through take-out and delivery. Owners are stressing over whether those options will be enough to cover rent, payroll and other expenses in the coming months.

On the medical side, families are affected personally as Fil-Ams make up 20% of California’s registered nurse workforce and are thrown into the front lines of this fight against the virus. As the state’s health care system is anticipated to be overwhelmed with the uptick in positive cases, many Fil-Am nurses, doctors and scientists worry about how they can come home and be with their families in fear of transmitting the virus.

To address some of the local San Francisco community’s pressing issues, non-profit economic development and arts organization Kultivate Labs is spearheading a new effort to raise $100,000 to help stabilize 10 Fil-Am restaurants and spread the Filipino spirit of community and hospitality.

The Sarap Shop preps to-go boxes for delivery. | Photos courtesy of The Sarap Shop

“Two weeks ago we released a survey to our network of entrepreneurs and we found that all of them are scared. It’s expensive to start a restaurant. Some of them have leveraged their homes for financing and are afraid of losing them. We also have others that are afraid of becoming homeless. The economic impacts of COVID-19 are devastating,” Desi Danganan, Kultivate Labs’ executive director, told the Asian Journal.

The survey found that 40% of Filipino businesses have laid-off their staff and 67% of these businesses only have two months until they are insolvent.

Called #FilipinosFeedTheFrontlines, the campaign’s funds will in turn provide 10,000 meals for health care workers and scientists and Filipino seniors and low-income families in the South of Market (SOMA) neighborhood.

“Filipinos believe in ‘Kapwa,’ the idea of interconnectedness and shared empathy. We’re always finding ways to help others,” shared Danganan.

“#FilipinosFeedTheFrontlines is our way of connecting the dots in our community, from the heroic efforts of our healthcare workers to the most vulnerable of society like our seniors to our Filipino businesses that are on the brink of collapse.”

A sample meal under the #FilipinosFeedTheFrontlines campaign

The participating restaurants have been involved with the UNDSCVRD Night Market network of businesses or are part of the Kusinerio Alliance of Filipino Food, Danganan said. They include: Senor Sisig, Mestiza Taqueria, Little Skillet, Sarap Shop, Lumpia Company, Nick’s on Mission and Grand, FK Frozen Custard, Manila Bowl, Ox and Tiger, and IVSF Catering and SF Chicken Box.

“Many of us are concerned about the implications this has on our individual and community health. We are experiencing collective trauma on so many levels from financial loss to loss of our loved ones. It takes a lot of courage to choose a path where we fully rely on ourselves for stability. And now more than ever is our resilience being stretched,” said Kristen Brillantes, co-founder of the Sarap Shop, which serves a menu of Filipino comfort classics.

The tiers for pitching in include: $10 for a meal; $20/month to send two meals to the front lines; $50 for a family of 5; and $100 to feed a staff of 10. As of this writing, the campaign has received $11,630, and the first $5,000 in donations have been matched $1 for $1 by private sector partners. (Donations can be made at https://www.kultivatelabs.com/frontlines)

The hospitals and facilities that will receive the food service are: Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley6North, NICU, Emergency Depart; Chan Zuckerberg BioHub; Laguna Honda Hospital; Seton Medical Center in Daly City; Sutter Health Mills-Peninsula ER, Infection Prevention; Stanford HospitalPatient Care, Case Management and Social Work; University of San Francisco COVID19 Screening Tents, COVID19 Mobile Clinic, OB-GYN, and Charles Chui’s Lab.

The Sarap Shop packs meals for front-liners and low-income families in San Francisco at a certified commissary.

“Partner hospitals were engaged through organic outreach. Many people in our community are leaders in these hospital departments and were proactive in reaching out to care and morale boosters for their units with meals,” Brillantes said.

Organizations SOMCAN, United Playaz and Westbay are helping bring the meals to the vulnerable groups in SOMA.

The restaurants plan to have prepackaged, refrigerated meals that can be warmed up when the health care professionals and families need, whether during a break time or at the end of their shifts.

Brillantes added that the food businesses in the campaign are practicing strict food safety practices and that meals will be prepared in certified commissary kitchens. Chefs and staffers will be donning proper protective gear throughout the process and will make no-contact deliveries.

“We hope this campaign provides some inspiration and a boost of energy that we are not alone in this and we will get through it together and that all we have worked so hard for to date will not be wasted,” Brillantes added.

1 Comment
  1. Hi There,

    Kumusta Kayo? I saw on flash new tv today about “Filipino Feed The FrontLines” and google it and that’s how I thought maybe I can help, do volunteer work. I do have culinary background and work as on call Food Catering Chef / Cook and I do have experience on high volume food prep and production, sometimes PA ( Production Assistant) Set Up- Breakdown Booth Stations /Stage. Plus a local Resident of San Francisco ( Mission District). And I also work for a non profit organization ‘Centro Latino” located just behind the Armory Bldg. on 14th St. / Dolores St ? back then, years ago. ( 415) 758-8107, feel free to give me call if still looking for volunteers. Salamat !

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