The destruction of Houston’s local businesses caused by Hurricane Harvey cannot be overestimated—and the food service industry was not given preferential treatment. In fact, the food service industry has lost millions of dollars and restaurant owners / workers are a low priority target for financial aid. Energy corporations, drilling companies, public works coalitions, and major Houston businesses are all first in line. A family-owned taqueria or BBQ smokehouse is unlikely to see a dime of federal help.
However, one organization took initiative to help Houston food service workers in need.
Southern Smoke is a nonprofit organization that was started by Houston chef Chris Shepherd. The organization typically holds a food festival to raise money for multiple sclerosis research. However, once Hurricane Harvey struck the Houston area, Chris Shepherd decided to raise money for food service industry workers who were in need of help.
The organization got to work, and held an outdoor barbeque event in October. Chefs from Texas, North Carolina, Kansas, New York, and more came together to cook for the October event. Additionally, Houston’s wine community came together and was more than present at the October gathering.
More than 1,300 people attended the 2017 Southern Smoke festival, and each person was treated to great food and music. The team set a fundraising goal of $500,000. On the day of the event, Southern Smoke announced that it had beat its goal by $1,000.
Through two anonymous committees, Southern Smoke was able to use their $500,000 to assist 139 professional food service workers in the Houston area. These grants were used to rebuild homes, reopen restaurants, and get the Houston food service industry back to normal.
One recipient of a Southern Smoke grant had this to say about his financial situation before and after Southern Smoke, “We pretty much lost everything on our 500 acres with the hurricane. We estimate our total loss at about $400,000. It really devastated us. But the money that we received from Southern Smoke allows us to buy more seeds, replant and restart. We’re very grateful.”