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Fauzia Abdur-Rahman and Fauzia Aminah Rasheed.

Hot Bread Kitchen: “Our community is using the funds to keep food on the table”

30 March 2021

Thousands of women working in the food industry in New York are believed to have lost their jobs since the start of the pandemic – and non-profit Hot Bread Kitchen has been providing them with vital support. We talk to Fauzia Aminah Rasheed about how the non-profit helped her family’s Bronx-based food cart business stay afloat, with support from Barclays. 

For nearly 30 years, Fauzia Abdur-Rahman has run a food cart in New York, in a spot just outside a courthouse in the Bronx. The family-run business, Fauzia’s Heavenly Delights, has long had a dedicated following, with its signature halal Jamaican jerk chicken dish a particular favourite.

But when the pandemic hit, the bustling street corner fell silent and Abdur-Rahman found herself having to close the cart as the city entered its first lockdown. Hers was just one of 240,000 small businesses in New York to be impacted – an estimated one third of which may never recover.

“We had no income coming in and no guarantee that business would be anywhere near what it was before the pandemic happened,” says Abdur-Rahman’s daughter, Fauzia Aminah Rasheed, who runs the business with her mother.

Determined not to give up, the family has bolstered online marketing efforts for their jerk seasoning, working hard to develop a sustainable e-commerce strategy. Thankfully for them, their efforts were supported by the New York-based non-profit Hot Bread Kitchen, which has been backing their food cart since 2019.

Helping women build careers in food 

Hot Bread Kitchen support women, immigrants and people of colour working in the food industry. Since joining the non-profit’s incubator programme for entrepreneurs in the food industry last year, Fauzia’s Heavenly Delights has gained vital mentorship and industry connections.

More recently, it has become one of more than 200 small businesses to have been supported by Hot Bread Kitchen’s COVID-specific support, which has seen the non-profit distribute over US $370,000 in emergency funds to women, small business owners in the food industry since March 2020.

Hot Bread Kitchen workforce programme.

Hot Bread Kitchen has adapted its services to provide vital relief to women in the food industry and small business during COVID-19.

Barclays’ COVID-19 support for Hot Bread Kitchen has had an enormous impact on the lives of women, entrepreneurs, and their families who lost their employment or had their income reduced due to the pandemic

Shaolee Sen

CEO of Hot Bread Kitchen

As well as helping small food businesses like Fauzia’s Heavenly Delights to survive, Hot Bread Kitchen has established a hotline and online resources for food workers and entrepreneurs affected by the pandemic. It has also supported them to prepare more than 37,000 meals for hospital workers and Harlem residents who lack secure access to food – in partnership with NYC Health + Hospitals and Food for Soul.

This has been made possible in part by a donation from Barclays’ £100m COVID-19 Community Aid Package, designed to help those hardest hit by the social and economic crisis caused by the pandemic.

"Barclays’ COVID-19 support for Hot Bread Kitchen has had an enormous impact on the lives of women, entrepreneurs, and their families who lost their employment or had their income reduced due to the pandemic,” says Shaolee Sen, CEO of Hot Bread Kitchen.

“Thanks to Barclays, we were able to support 235 alumnae of our workforce programme and small business owners with incomes and increased resources and support. Our community is using the funds to keep food on the table, pay their rent and access any medical assistance they need.”

Fauzia’s Heavenly Delights jerk seasoning.

Hot Bread Kitchen is helping businesses like Bronx-based food cart Fauzia’s Heavenly Delights stay afloat.

One of the blessings that has come out of this situation is that it has allowed us to work on the retail e-commerce side of our business. We have been able to pour all of our time and effort into it

Fauzia Aminah Rasheed

Fauzia’s Heavenly Delights

A growing impact

“Whether it's someone's first job in high school, an immigrant's first job in the US or a mother returning to work after having kids – the food industry is accessible,” says Sen. “However, the diversity that we see at the entry level into work is not reflected if you look up to the middle level or the highest level. Only 7% of head chefs in the US are women.”

Hot Bread Kitchen’s personalised coaching provides women and minority and women-owned businesses with the insights and resources to build a meaningful career and identify the education, skills and connections to get there. Over the last three years, Hot Bread Kitchen has increased its help services, providing vital social work support in the form of case management and crisis counselling related to mental health, housing and food insecurity, and childcare.

Sen says the pandemic has only reinforced existing inequalities: 40% of Hot Bread Kitchen’s community of food workers have either lost jobs or had their working hours reduced. “COVID-19 and the ongoing systemic racism in our country has really upended our community,” says Sen, who pledges that the non-profit will continue to provide essential support through its COVID-19 relief, whatever changes the future may bring.

Hot Bread Kitchen has certainly helped Fauzia’s Heavenly Delights. Reflecting on the huge changes to her own family’s business, Rasheed says: “One of the blessings that has come out of this situation is that it has allowed us to work on the retail e-commerce side of our business.

“We have been able to pour all of our time and effort into it. Going online has been a learning curve, but being able to still connect with our customers and make new customers during this time has been such a wonderful feeling.”

Barclays’ COVID-19 Community Aid Package

Barclays has established a £100m COVID-19 Community Aid Package to support communities impacted by the social and economic crisis caused by the pandemic. It consists of two components: charitable donations to non-profit partners working in the communities where Barclays operates; and a commitment to match personal colleague donations to their chosen non-profits who are helping COVID-19 relief efforts in their communities.

Find out more about Barclays’ COVID-19 Community Aid Package.