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Black and Indigenous restaurant operators can apply for $15K James Beard grants

Applications are open for the new grant program to benefit groups that have traditionally been “exploited and racialized to the benefit of their white counterparts,” the Foundation said.
Photo courtesy James Beard Foundation

Restaurants owned by Black and Indigenous people are eligible to receive $15,000 grants through a new James Beard Foundation program.

Applications are open until 3 p.m. ET on January 22 for the James Beard Foundation Food and Beverage Investment Fund for Black and Indigenous Americans.

A total of 18 grants from six geographic regions will be awarded during this funding round, the nonprofit Foundation said. New application periods will be announced as more funds become available. Fundraising for this round of grants began last fall.

To qualify for the grants for food and beverage businesses, the company must be independently owned with 50 or fewer full- or part-time employees, or a restaurant group in which each restaurant has 50 or fewer employees. Most importantly, the businesses must be at least 51% owned by Black and/or Indigenous people. Franchisees are not eligible for the grant program, the Foundation said.

“Black and Indigenous people often have portions of their cuisines and cultures appropriated, their hand in creating major American food and beverage items and dishes erased, and their images exploited and racialized to the benefit of their white counterparts,” the Foundation said in a statement. “We recognize these facts and seek to highlight the merits and contributions of Black and Indigenous people.”

In August, the James Beard Foundation said it would cancel its annual industry awards for 2020 and 2021, a first in its 30-year history. The awards, widely considered the Oscars of the restaurant industry, celebrate the country’s best chefs and restaurants. But many criticized the Foundation’s awards program, saying it is elitist and largely focused on white-owned operations.

Instead of awards, a celebration of those who have stepped up during the pandemic and supported the industry and their communities is planned for May.

The organization’s awards committee is overhauling its policies and procedures to remove systemic bias, increase diversity in the pool of honorees and align the awards with the group’s values of “equity, equality, sustainability and excellence,” the organization said previously.


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