The Story of RWMA’s Start: Fighting Food Insecurity in the Food Industry

RWMA was organized in March 2020 when Massachusetts mandated restaurants to close due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Alex Gladwell and Kaitlyn Sullivan did what restaurant workers do, they sprung into action, pooling together resources to provide food for their fellow restaurant worker.

Alex Gladwell, with a background in Hunger Studies and Public Policy, in conjunction with extensive restaurant experience, knew that restaurant closures would mean too many people facing immediate food insecurity. Particularly impacted, those who are the very foundation of the industry, undocumented workers. With this, Alex approached her friend and fellow industry worker, Kaitlyn Sullivan.

Without skipping a beat, Kaitlyn offered the space of Abigail’s Restaurant to begin aquiring donations. Week one, Kaitlyn and Alex organized and provided grocery items for 10 households. Since then, this two women team– in collaboration with an amazing group of industry friends volunteering their time– has been able to reach more households than ever predicted.

The restaurant industry highlights how when resources are pooled, and people work together, how much can be accomplished. Just think of a night out to dinner at your favorite restaurant or out on the town at your local bar (I know, it’s been awhile). Behind the food coming to your table or that drink being shakin’ up, so much coordination and labor has taken place.

What we need to remember and value are the undocumented workers who make it all possible. From the production and distribution of the very food that finds its way into the restaurant; to the preparation and execution of your favorite dish– there are countless undocumented workers. It all starts and ends with immigrant laborers, who work tirelessly and too often without recognition or appreciation.

The irony that those very individuals that make the food cycle of our country function disproportionally face food insecurity (both pre-Covid, and now at an alarmingly growing rate) is not lost on RWMA. It is a message that is core to our very foundation.

Kaitlyn and Alex are humbled at the opportunity to be able to support their restaurant community. In a small way, we hope it shows that they are valued; and despite the message our government sends by failing to provide assistance, they are not forgotten. Without the immigrant community, the industry very well would not exist. If we hope to reestablish the restaurant industry, we need to do so with inclusivity and equity.

This is an opportunity to be better equipped as a society. To show our hard working community members that they are of value. No one should be facing food insecurity, and especially not those so central to the very function of our food systems.

What can you do in support?

  • Consider donating: volunteering your time or offer financial support (with RWMA or an organization local to you);
  • Be advocates! Reach out to your representatives. Educate yourselves. Have these important conversations.

We can do better. We need to do better. In the mean time, Alex, Kaitlyn, and the network that makes up RWMA will continue to do what necessary, with hope of a better, more just future.

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