The origin story of nonprofit Giving Kitchen, which supports food service workers in times of crisis, has captured the hearts of Atlanta and beyond since its inception in 2013: Atlanta chef Ryan Hidinger and his wife, Jen, hosted a 10-person supper club called Staplehouse to narrow down the ideas behind their dream restaurant. As the concept gained steam, Ryan was diagnosed with late-stage gallbladder cancer in 2012 and passed in 2014.
Despite having insurance, the Hidingers quickly became overwhelmed by medical bills. But just as overwhelming was the support the couple received from the Atlanta restaurant community, who banded together to host a benefit—Team Hidi—that ultimately raised $275,000 for the Hidinger family. “People were coming together to make a change and build purpose for one individual. It changed the course of what we now see as Giving Kitchen,” cofounder Jen Hidinger-Kendrick says. Team Hidi is now in its eighth year and broke records by raising $865,000 this February.
Since its founding, Giving Kitchen has been dedicated to providing emergency assistance to food service workers through referrals and financial assistance—and captured the second runner-up GIVE Atlanta Challenge spot at $94,127 in 2018. Many of these workers are underinsured and are unable to miss days of work. The nonprofit provides support to food service workers facing illness, accident, natural disaster, or a death in the family. To date, Giving Kitchen has provided $2.7 million in grants to nearly 1,700 recipients. Their Stability Network also connects workers with social services for needed resources.
Now, the nonprofit has big plans to expand its footprint across Georgia and become a statewide agency. Their focus is to continue to expand awareness about their efforts beyond the metro Atlanta area and help workers in other Georgia cities experiencing hardship. “Our best storytellers are the distributor networks that depend on restaurants for business,” Executive Director Bryan Schroeder says.
In 2019, Giving Kitchen was awarded the James Beard Foundation Humanitarian of the Year for its wide-ranging efforts. “Our promise to our food service community is stability,” Hidinger-Kendrick says.