COVID-19 Will Forever Change the Food Industry | Chow | Bend | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon
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COVID-19 Will Forever Change the Food Industry 

Can we help our food community?

Earlier this month I was wondering why we don't have any cheese makers in Central Oregon and bummed that our young local baker, Reggie Strom, didn't win "Kids Baking Championship" on the Food Network. I thought for sure he was going to get the title; he won three episodes, plus his skills were on point. It all came down to his chocolate mousse splitting when it wasn't tempered properly. He put up a good fight.

The fight now is different. Each restaurant and food business is fighting to survive.

My Holm Made Toffee delivery included a toilet paper thank you note clearly showing they still have 
their sense of humor. - LISA SIPE
  • Lisa Sipe
  • My Holm Made Toffee delivery included a toilet paper thank you note clearly showing they still have their sense of humor.

"With this virus outbreak and how serious it is, the restaurant industry will forever change. How can it not?" wrote Chef-Owner of Foxtail Bakeshop, Nickol Hayden-Cady on her business Facebook page. "With margins as low as restaurants (and I know what you are thinking, wow, you have lines out the door and you are booked for weddings, whatever!). But what you don't know is all the money we borrowed, the extremely high rent and bills we have, all of payroll, and in the last week having all of your March, April and half of May weddings cancel, large events canceled, patrons no longer coming in due to the virus and cake orders being canceled and wholesale accounts also closing their doors. This devastation is not just for two weeks. If that is what the news is telling you, they are wrong. If our government does not bail us out, well, say goodbye to 75% of restaurants you loved. The livelihoods of restaurant workers, owners and hospitality workers are at the mercy of our government. Also, think of the repercussions of those who do support farmers and other small local vendors. They are crop planning now for all the restaurants, what if they have no one to sell to? Cause the chain restaurants do not buy from local farmers. We had to make decisions yesterday that I will forever feel bad about."

I don't know what our food community will look like when social distancing is over.

We can help restaurants right now by purchasing gift cards, merchandise and ordering takeout.

These restaurants are pivoting as fast as they can to stay afloat, some offering curbside pickup, delivery, online ordering to avoid money handling and even meal kits. The Source is compiling a takeout guide to make it easy for Central Oregonians to know which restaurants have offerings. Even though you aren't dining in, consider leaving a tip like you are. This is an industry full of minimum-wage workers that relies heavily on tips. Typically, tips are shared with the entire staff, right down to the dishwasher who may be struggling to pay rent or feed their family.

In the short term, we can ask restaurants if they have food inventory for purchase. They aren't feeding as many people as they planned for, so this can keep food from spoiling on the shelf and further monetary loss.

To help our local food manufacturers, buy their products now. Many of them have a shorter shelf life.

"We've been stocking up for months for wholesale Easter orders," said Randi Holm, co-owner of Holm Made Toffee. Holm Made Toffee, like many other local manufacturers, needs to sell inventory before the company loses money. To purchase local food products, buy off the shelves of local stores or online from the company website (some are offering local delivery) or larger distributors. Even check Amazon for local producers; I was able to find Josie's Best Gluten Free products there.

We can only hope these efforts will be enough to help these businesses stay alive.

"When this all blows over," said Hayden-Cady, "probably three to five months, I think that's when the community can help who they loved to reopen." In the meantime, she's predicting a lot of people are going to learn how to cook, and she thinks they should. During our chat I could hear her son in the background. Like everyone else with children in town she now has them at home. As we were talking about people learning how to cook, her son exclaimed, "I'm lucky I have a mom that bakes." Ain't that the truth!

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