JBF Investment Fund FAQs

FAQs for the JBF Food and Beverage Investment Fund for Black and Indigenous Americans

1. Why did the James Beard Foundation create this Fund?

2020 has been a year of long-overdue upheaval and introspection, across wider society and within the food and beverage industry. Inequity and racial disparity have finally jumped into the national spotlight, but have always been problems in the larger food system. According to a report by NPR, the gap has been greatest in higher-end and fine-dining restaurants where the white staff members tend to make up the majority of front-of-house (higher-paid) employees, while Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) tend to make up the majority of back-of-house (lower-paid) employees. Furthermore, individuals from these marginalized communities typically have a harder time accessing capital, often resulting in having to “boot strap” a business with personal debt or loans from friends and family. 

The American food system is particularly relevant when understanding the history and oppression of Black and Indigenous people. From knowledge of the native foods already present in the Americas, to agricultural know-how for the newly introduced crops—such as African rice—which would become American food staples, to the preservation of cooking techniques from their native cultures, the influence of these groups on America’s food culture and food system cannot be overstated. And yet, throughout the nation’s history, the contributions, cultures, and identities of these groups have been appropriated for the profit of others with no monetary or other benefit to their communities. 
 
The James Beard Foundation is committed to celebrating, nurturing, and honoring chefs and other leaders making America’s food culture more delicious, diverse, and sustainable for everyone. As part of this commitment, we feel a responsibility to recognize and uplift all members of our industry, especially those whose contributions have been historically minimized and/or erased. We recognize that as a Foundation we have contributed to upholding systems of oppression—especially in the food world—and know it is time for us to take intentional and aggressive action to help create a more equitable industry for communities that are disproportionately impacted by systemic racism.

In acknowledgement of the immeasurable contribution that these two communities have made to the modern American foodscape, the Foundation is launching the James Beard Foundation Food and Beverage Investment Fund for Black and Indigenous Americans to provide financial resources for food or beverage businesses that are majority-owned by Black or Indigenous individuals. These grants are one part of our Open for Good campaign, launched in April to rebuild an independent restaurant industry that is stronger, more equitable, more sustainable, and more resilient when it re-opens post-COVID-19. 

This new Fund is part of the Foundation’s ongoing commitment to continually lift up the Black and Indigenous business owners in our industry, not just in light of the pandemic, but for good. Financial resource is that much more impactful when coupled with support from organizations and experts who make themselves available to provide guidance on professional skills like marketing, structuring business plans, and negotiating contracts. The Foundation is in the process of creating new partnerships to deliver this value to our grant recipients in an effort to see these businesses thrive for the long term. Additionally, all grantees will have unrestricted access to our new portal www.openforgood.com, which contains webinars, educational resources, and a one-on-one mentorship hub.
 
With this new Fund, we will support and encourage contributions of all forms and types which help to make American food delicious and diverse.

2. Who are the main funders and sponsors?
The Fund is launching with support from the Willamette Valley Wineries Association who contributed proceeds from their annual Pinot Noir Auction that took place on August 13, 2020. The Fund will also be the beneficiary of the “Heard Initiative” bracelet created by Chef Ming Tsai and Chefmetal. Additional fundraising initiatives are in discussion with corporate and individual donors.

3. When will applications be open?
We will announce an application window once we have raised sufficient funding to cover a round of grants. The Foundation will announce the application window and publish the application in advance, and will disseminate this information across all of its owned-channels. Please read question #8 to review the application components. 

4. How long will the applications be open? 
For the first round of funding, the application will remain open for 10 business days. The specific opening time and date and closing time and date will be publicized in advance so that potential applicants will be able to compile the required information in advance. 

5. How were the six regions determined?
The Fund aims to disburse resources equally across the Black and Indigenous communities throughout the U.S. Using the most recent census data, we have created six regions, each containing between 16%-17% of the total Black and Indigenous population in the country. Regions with fewer states tend to contain a higher portion of these populations, whereas regions with more states tend to have smaller portions of this total population. 

Regions are defined as:

  • Region 1: CT, DE, MA, MD, ME, NH, NJ, NY, RI, VT, Washington, D.C., WV
  • Region 2: IA, IL, IN, KY, MI, OH, PA
  • Region 3: AL, AR, FL, MO, MS, OK 
  • Region 4: GA, NC, TN, SC
  • Region 5: AZ, CO, KS, LA, NM, NV, Puerto Rico, TX, UT
  • Region 6: AK, CA, HI, ID, MI, MN, MT, ND, NE, OR, SD, WA, WI, WY

6. Is there a deadline to apply?
For the first round of funding, the Fund will accept applications for 10 business days. The specific opening time and date and closing time and date will be publicized in advance so that potential applicants will be able to compile the required information in advance. Applications will have to be submitted by the closing time on the closing date in order to be considered. There will be future application rounds that will be announced when and if the Fund secures additional support. Applications received for a specific round of funding will only apply for that round of funding, and applicants will need to apply again for future rounds of funding.

7. Can I apply multiple times?
Independently owned food or beverage businesses with 50 or fewer full- or part-time employees as of February 15, 2020, and who are at least 51% owned by Black and/or Indigenous Americans may apply once each time a new application window opens. Once a business has received a disbursement from the Fund, they are no longer eligible to receive funding in future rounds of grants.

8. What will the application process entail?
The application process will consist of a form that will gather necessary information for determining an applicant’s eligibility. Applicants should visit the application page to review the materials that will need to be compiled. Please review the criteria to see what documentation is necessary to submit an application.

9. When is an application considered complete?
An application will be time-stamped and considered complete once the applicant clicks submit. Applications will be reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis according to the timestamp at submission.

10. What is the process if my application is not complete?
Any applicant who submits an incomplete application will be contacted by the Foundation and given a period of forty-eight (48) hours from the time of outreach to provide the missing information. If the missing information is not provided within 48 hours, the application will be disqualified, and the applicant will need to begin the application process again. If the information is provided in time, the application will be considered complete as of the time it was originally submitted.

11. What if I apply but don’t get funded because the Fund runs out of money?
Applications received for a specific round of funding will only apply for that round of funding and applicants will need to apply again for future rounds of funding. Applicants who receive a grant will not be eligible for future rounds of funding.

12. Are grants received from the Fund taxable?
We recommend that you check with your tax professional, but the funding is designed to be a non-taxable charitable grant to those with critical financial need. 

13. How are small restaurants defined for the purposes of the Fund?
To qualify for funding, a restaurant must be (i) independently owned with 50 or fewer full- or part-time employees as of February 15, 2020, or (ii) a restaurant group in which each member restaurant has 50 or fewer full- or part-time employees on that date.

14. Are franchise owners eligible for funding? 
For the purposes of this fund, franchise owners are not eligible for this grant because their affiliation with a parent company does not allow them to fall under our definition of an independent restaurant.

15. How do restaurant groups receive funding?
Restaurant groups who are at least 51% owned by Black and/or Indigenous Americans are eligible to apply for funding if each of their member restaurants has 50 or fewer full- or part-time employees as of February 15, 2020. Eligible restaurant groups should submit one application on behalf of the group, and the group will be eligible for one grant of $15,000 if it meets the criteria and on a first-come first-served basis. A restaurant that is part of a group may not apply on its own; it must apply as part of its group. Restaurant groups with locations in multiple regions must apply in only one region of their choice.

16. Who is eligible?
To qualify for funding, a food or beverage business must be (i) independently owned with 50 or fewer full- or part-time employees as of February 15, 2020, or (ii) a restaurant group in which each member restaurant had 50 or fewer full- or part-time employees on that date, and (iii) at least 51% owned by Black and/or Indigenous Americans.

The Fund will make an equal number of grants across three categories of types of food and beverage businesses. Categories are defined as:

Category 1: 

  • Food and beverage businesses without a standalone brick-and-mortar footprint (food trucks, food stalls, supper clubs, food and beverage consultants)

Category 2: 

  • Brick-and-mortar food and beverage businesses without seated table-side service (fast casual restaurant, counter service restaurant or cafe, bakeries, distillery, etc.)

Category 3:

  • Brick-and-mortar food and beverage businesses with seated table-side service (full-service restaurant, brewpub, or speakeasy with full menu)

The Fund retains the right to make final funding decisions, in its sole discretion, consistent with the applicable criteria, which the Fund may amend as needed to ensure smooth operations. In addition, the Fund, in making these charitable grants, wants to promote a safe, fair, and respectful workplace. Any restaurant that does not provide a workplace consistent with these values will be disqualified from receiving a grant from the Fund. The Fund retains the right to reclassify an applicant to the appropriate category as needed.

17. How will funds be distributed? How much money will each restaurant receive?
Completed applications in each region will be reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis. Each applicant approved by the Fund shall receive a one-time payment of $15,000. Approved applicants will be contacted by the Fund to secure full banking details for a wire transfer, or to determine the best delivery method for grant funds.

18. How did you determine the funding level?
We determined the funding level of $15,000 based on an initial survey conducted by the Foundation at the onset of the pandemic that indicated the amount of financial support businesses predicted they would need in order to survive the coming months. For reference, $15,000 is also consistent with what the Foundation offered as part of the James Beard Foundation Food and Beverage Industry Relief Fund earlier this year. While the financial need may differ significantly among businesses based on their location, pandemic-related business restrictions, and many other factors, we determined that the amount of $15,000 for each grant would be impactful and meaningful for recipients, while permitting us to also support as many businesses as possible.

19. Is the Fund accepting both unrestricted and restricted donations?
Yes. The Fund will accept both unrestricted and restricted donations. Unrestricted donations will be divided evenly across the 6 regions, and restricted donations will be allocated to the region(s) designated by the donor. The Fund will distribute the funds raised for each region by making an equal number of awards in each category within that region (i.e. 2 grantees in category 1, 2 grantees in category 2, and 2 grantees in category 3 in Region 1). Donors who wish to make restricted contributions may restrict their gift to one or more of the 6 regions, but cannot limit the use of their donations to specify states or types of food and beverage businesses for their contribution. 

20. What is the New Venture Fund?
The James Beard Foundation Food and Beverage Investment Fund for Black and Indigenous Americans is administered by New Venture Fund (“NVF”) on behalf of the James Beard Foundation. NVF is a 501(c)(3) public charity that supports innovative and effective public interest projects. NVF was established in 2006 in response to demand from leading philanthropists for an efficient, cost-effective, and time-saving platform to launch and operate charitable projects. The organization executes a range of donor driven public interest projects in conservation, global health, public policy, international development, education, disaster recovery, and the arts. 

21. Will the New Venture Fund have oversight into the eligibility or selection process? 
Eligibility criteria and the selection process were developed by the James Beard Foundation to comply with IRS requirements for a charitable, disaster relief fund. The New Venture Fund is administering the Fund on behalf of the James Beard Foundation but is not playing a role in the selection of grantees.

22. Are fine-dining restaurants going to be prioritized?
No, the Fund is available on a first-come, first-served basis to applicants who meet the outlined criteria.

23. Are James Beard Award winners being prioritized?
No, the Fund is available on a first-come, first-served basis to applicants who meet the outlined criteria.

24. When will funds be distributed? 
Funds will be disbursed within 15 business days following the closing of an application window. Approved applicants will receive an email communication to confirm the distribution timeline.

25. Will the distributed funds go to workers? Or to owners?
The purpose of the Fund is to provide financial resource for food or beverage businesses that are majority-owned by Black or Indigenous individuals, that due to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic have an immediate need for funds to pay set operating expenses and keep from going out of business. Our goal is to do our part along with federal, state, and local governments to provide for workers, sustain local business, reduce the financial impact on communities, and otherwise mitigate the severe economic consequences of this national disaster.

26. Who is making the decisions about who will receive distributions from the Fund? 
Any restaurant or business that meets the eligibility requirements (listed in question #16) during each round will be considered to receive funding based on a first-come, first-served basis. However, the Foundation retains the right to make final funding decisions, in its sole discretion, consistent with the applicable criteria, which the Fund may amend without notice, as needed to ensure smooth operations. 
 
In addition, the Fund, in making these charitable grants, wants to promote a safe, fair and respectful workplace. Any restaurant that does not provide a workplace consistent with these values will be disqualified from receiving a distribution from the Fund. 

27. Why is the Foundation distributing funds through a first-come, first-served basis? 
The James Beard Foundation acknowledges that distributing funds via a first-come, first-served basis is not perfect. We recognize that many will be disappointed, but our number one priority is to send relief out as expeditiously as possible during this national disaster. We felt that creating a decision-making process dictated by individuals' stories would put us into a position where we would be making judgements on contributions to communities that we are still working to understand as well as disadvantage those that may not have the means to donate or contribute to their communities, with their business, in visible ways. 
 
Furthermore, a need-based model requires an understanding of local economies and detailed financial documents to ensure a fair distribution that we are not currently equipped to analyze. Therefore, we decided to use a first-come, first-served model, as was used for our first fund, adding multiple rounds to increase the number of opportunities one would have to apply for funds. Additionally, funds will be allocated for each kind of business structure (non-brick-and-mortar, counter service, and full-service food businesses) to ensure that funds are distributed as equally as possible among business models.

28. How are you ensuring the diversity of recipients in terms of restaurant type, ethnicity, etc.?
The Fund will distribute funding on a first-come, first-served basis to eligible Black or Indigenous applicants. We have created multiple rounds for application, so that eligible applicants will have more than one opportunity to apply for available funding. To ensure equity among food business types, we have created three categories of restaurant/food business that funds will be allocated equally between. Therefore, a food truck owner will have the same opportunity as a brick-and-mortar restaurant owner to receive funding.
 
In order to value the contributions of Black and Indigenous Americans to the nation’s food culture, we must recognize, celebrate, and support the efforts of all types of food and beverage businesses, not just those that have been acknowledged for decades by the James Beard Foundation. Food trucks, pop-up supper clubs, fast-casual restaurants, and brewpubs are all a part of the unique culinary fabric of this country. With this new Fund, we will support and encourage contributions of all forms and types which help to make American food delicious and diverse.

29. Is the James Beard Foundation receiving any of the Fund?
Donations to the Fund will be subject to a 20% administrative fee to help cover the Foundation’s costs in administering the Fund.

30. Why is the Fund supporting Black and Indigenous Americans?
BIPOC in the United States face systemic barriers and racial inequities that prevent many from moving into positions of leadership and/or ownership in the food and beverage industry. America’s Black and Indigenous communities in particular have faced oppression for centuries, and were foundational groups upon which American systemic racism was designed. Through the processes of kidnapping, slavery, colonization, and mass genocide, these groups endured atrocities that would result in systems designed to oppress them and eventually oppress all people of color. These systems became a part of the fabric of our country.
 
The structure of the American food system was built, literally and figuratively, on the backs of Black and Indigenous Americans. From knowledge of the native foods already present in the Americas, to agricultural know-how for the newly introduced crops—such as African rice—which would become American food staples, to the preservation of cooking techniques from their native cultures, the influence of these groups on America’s food culture and food system cannot be overstated. And yet, throughout American history, the contributions, cultures, and identities of these groups have been appropriated for the profit of others with no monetary or other benefit to their communities.  
 
Black and Indigenous people often have 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. We recognize these facts and seek to highlight the merits and contributions of Black and Indigenous people. 
 
In acknowledgement of the immeasurable contribution that these two communities have made to the modern American foodscape, the Foundation is launching the James Beard Foundation Food and Beverage Investment Fund for Black and Indigenous Americans to provide financial resources for food or beverage businesses that are majority-owned by Black or Indigenous individuals. 

31. Does the James Beard Foundation plan to create a Fund for all people of color (“POC”)? 
The James Beard Foundation is committed to celebrating, nurturing, and honoring chefs and other leaders making America’s food culture more delicious, diverse, and sustainable for everyone. At this time, we have decided to focus our efforts on the Black and Indigenous Americans, and we hope to be able to support all POC in the future.

32. How are you preventing fraud and determining if a business is at least 51% owned by Black and/or Indigenous American? 
The Fund must avoid fraud and confirm that distributions are being made to the owner of a qualified small, independent food or beverage business. To aid in confirming the legitimacy of the business that is applying, please choose option 1 or option 2 below and submit all of the requested documentation outlined.   

Option 1: 

  • Provide at least two proof of ownership documents. At least one of the documents must confirm at least 51% ownership by the Black or Indigenous American requesting a grant. Acceptable proof is a copy of a business license, ownership agreement, health certificate, liquor license, or other official government document showing the name of the qualified restaurant and the name of the restaurant owner. 
  • Provide the account name for the bank account you uses for your business. The name of the bank account holder to which funds are transferred must match either the restaurant’s or owner’s name shown on the proof provided. 

Option 2: 

  • Provide at least two letters of recommendation which outline the role of your business in your community and the service you provide. 
  • Provide at least two of the below: 
    • Copy or photo of your menu 
    • Photo of your place of business 
    • Receipt for goods used to run your business (food, paper goods, etc) 

For applicants who select option 1, at least one of the documents must confirm at least 51% ownership by the Black or Indigenous American requesting a grant. Acceptable proof is a copy of a business license, ownership agreement, health certificate, liquor license, or other official government document showing the name of the qualified food or beverage business and the name of the business owner.
 
For applicants who select option 2, the Fund will review and contact the authors of the letters of recommendation that are submitted to confirm the legitimacy of the business and ownership by a Black or Indigenous American.

33. What is the role of the Fund Leadership Committee? Do they have a say in who receives a grant? 
The Fund Leadership Committee does not review grant applications and will not play a role in determining grant recipients. The Fund is available on a first-come, first-served basis to applicants who meet the outlined criteria. 
 
Leadership Committee members are responsible for raising awareness and galvanizing support for this initiative, by promoting the Fund within their networks and fundraising on behalf of the Fund. The Leadership Committee will ensure that the Fund is well-promoted and communicated to Black and/or Indigenous food and beverage business owners across the country. 

34. How else can I help the food and beverage industry?
Community-focused and independent restaurants are at the heart of every city, town, and village across America, and the world. For over 30 years, the James Beard Foundation has celebrated the best of those restaurants, showcased culinary excellence, and pushed chefs and restaurateurs to use their voices for positive change.
 
Open for Good is the James Beard Foundation’s campaign to help independent restaurants survive this crisis, rebuild better, and thrive for the long term. Open for Good programs provide critical resources to help independent restaurants build the capacity to come back stronger, more equitable, more sustainable, and more resilient. Resources include Open for Good playbooks, industry support webinars, and advocacy efforts to mobilize the community toward systemic policy change, among others. 
 
Support independent restaurants in your community by ordering takeout and, if you visit in person, wear a mask and follow social distancing protocols and any other safety rules and regulations the restaurant may have. Expect that due to limited capacity and social distancing requirements in the kitchen and other areas of the restaurant that the menu and the service will be different than what you experienced pre-COVID. Be patient and understanding with the staff, who are at risk of exposure to the virus throughout the day as part of their job. 
 

Learn more about the JBF Food and Beverage Investment Fund for Black and Indigenous Americans.
Learn more about Open for Good, and how you can support these initiatives.