NYCETC’s Member Spotlight series – which introduces our readers to the wide variety of workforce programs and services that our members offer across the five boroughs – is shifting to highlight the ways in which organizations have shifted their services to best support their clients and communities during the COVID pandemic and within the post-COVID economy. This week we focus on Hot Bread Kitchen.

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For nearly 30 years, Fauzia Abdur-Rahman (pictured with daughter Fauzia Aminah Rasheed) and her family have been serving halal “Jamaican fusion” food from a food cart outside the courthouse in the Bronx. With business screeching to a halt due to COVID, the family has pivoted to selling their famous jerk sauce online, which they initially launched in 2019 through Hot Bread Kitchen’s Incubator. “We applied for close to 10 different grant programs, but received none,” said Fauzia Aminah Rasheed. “One of the blessings that has come out of this entire situation is that it has allowed us to work on the retail e-commerce side of our business.” Read their story here.


Hot Bread Kitchen is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to transform the food system into one that equitably compensates talent and sustains a diverse workforce while celebrating culinary tradition and innovation. The organization’s work helps women, immigrants, and people of color thrive as workers and entrepreneurs within the food system and is helping to make the system itself more conscious and equitable for all. Hot Bread Kitchen’s programs include workforce development, support for small businesses owned by women and people of color, and support for a more equitable food industry. 

Since its founding in 2008, Hot Bread Kitchen has had tremendous impact toward these goals of diversifying New York City’s food and hospitality workforce and businesses with 280 women placed in jobs and 250 businesses incubated. . The workforce and small business programs, together with the organization’s former social enterprise bakery, have strengthened New York City’s local economy by creating over 500 employment opportunities and more than$100 million in regional economic impact. These include its collaboration with the NYC Economic Development Corporation, City Council and the Bloomberg Administration to revive and rehabilitate La Marqueta, a once bustling market in Harlem that had faced severe decline in the last few decades. Hot Bread Kitchen’s presence at La Marqueta  has brought entrepreneurial activity to La Marqueta, contributing to  local economic revitalization while celebrating the neighborhood’s rich cultural history. The organization is in the process of moving into a second location, an 11,000 square foot commercial kitchen  at 630 Flushing Avenue, a hub for food manufacturing and workforce development programs. 

With the food and hospitality industry being one of the hardest hit sectors in New York City’s economy by the COVID-19 shutdown, Hot Bread Kitchen and its community of members and alumnae have equivalently faced outsized challenges. At the height of the pandemic, Hot Bread Kitchen found that more than 40% of workforce program alumnae lost their jobs immediately when the stay-at-home order took effect, 68% of the alumnae did not have any source of household income in the months following the shutdown, and 64% of active incubator member businesses saw a decrease in revenue, with 35% experiencing a revenue decrease of 50% or more.

To tackle these challenges, Hot Bread Kitchen shifted its focus on helping alumnae and entrepreneurs access financial and social supports, while reimagining its long-term programming. In response to clients facing difficulty in accessing assistance from government safety net programs, Hot Bread Kitchen’s Emergency Response Fund has so far disbursed $274,623 to 187 food workers, small business owners and their employees. The average amount disbursed per person is $1,500. In tandem with its emergency funding, Hot Bread Kitchen launched a focused technical assistance effort to help its members navigate the complicated and overloaded application systems for unemployment insurance, Payroll Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), and public benefits. This process has helped 72 alumnae receive unemployment insurance and 15 incubator member businesses receive a PPP or EIDL loan. Hot Bread Kitchen has also launched online skill-building to help workforce alum get back to work safely, and is continuing to evolve its small business  program to provide access for entrepreneurs  to produce and sell their products safely and support businesses owned by women and people of color.  

To support food relief efforts, Hot Bread Kitchen, through a partnership with NYC Health + Hospitals and Start Small Think Big, two of our incubator member businesses received a total of $158,000 to provide over 25,000 meals for hospital workers battling the surge in COVID-19 cases. Additionally, they offered their uptown kitchen space to East Harlem-based school food producer Red Rabbit, helping it provide an additional 20,000 emergency meals weekly to those facing food shortages and allowed them to hire six community members to meet increased demand. Incubator business members have similarly shifted to provide emergency relief and online sales.

As we all move forward, Hot Bread Kitchen is more focused than ever on reimagining an equitable and sustainable food industry while continuing to support women, immigrants, and people of color in achieving their financial and career goals. Learn more about Hot Bread Kitchen’s response to the pandemic and fight for racial justice and contact development@hotbreadkitchen.org for details.


Read more Member Spotlights.



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