A Staff of Goodwill

How Goodwill Touches in the Community Make a Difference


Outside the walls of your restaurant, beyond the daily grind of operations and the soup of the day, is the community you serve. Through your restaurant’s team of waiters and cooks, bussers and cashiers, you have an ongoing connection to your community; it is like a two-way street paved with opportunities to make each side greater. It is an integral partnership for good business, like bread and butter, salt and pepper, or potatoes and gravy.

Out of the box and into the community
There are so many good reasons to get your team organized and focused on helping neighbors, charities and local events that they cannot possibly be covered here. Rather, let us move our focus to look at unique, alternative ways to help and to rearrange the energy we put into charitable support.

This starts with viewing your charitable efforts as part of your team building by offering fresh opportunities to your staff. Challenge your team to brainstorm what’s important in the area around your establishment; they may come up with youth teams or service organizations, but they may find concerns that surprise you: local history, neighborhood groups, charity events and the like that are flying below the hum and buzz of the norm. There are plenty of underserved portions of the population, but do not feel overwhelmed by this. Just find one that is a good fit and get started. 

The garden provided by education
The grace and goodwill of the foodservice industry has rallied behind healthy food education. There is an entire spectrum of projects that foster healthy eating habits and a sense of place through education in growing, selecting, shopping, planning and preparing food. And the programs range from teaching children and teens to education for adults. Its importance and your opportunities to take part should not be over looked.  

The Oregon Food Bank offers a program called Cooking Matters, which is a collaboration with No Kid Hungry. Volunteers help people develop the right skills, so eating healthy can be affordable and delicious. According to No Kid Hungry, 85 percent of families living on a tight budget see healthy eating as important, only about half are able to prepare nutritious meals most nights of the week. Via Cooking Matters, food skills like smart shopping, meal planning and healthy cooking, can help make healthy eating a daily reality. The support offered can be as simple as guiding a tour through a supermarket to locate the items needed to prepare healthy, affordable meals at home.

Another area that has room for growth is community gardens. Consider working with your staff to start and sustain one in your area, and imagine having your restaurant’s name mentioned in the same breath as that garden. Not only will the garden educate your team about the seasonality of foodservice products, but it will also provide a simple, strong message of sustainability in your community. The garden can be a gathering place and a way to easily integrate your staff into the goodwill you are providing. And if you are not sure where to start, there are plenty of online resources from success stories all over our region.

Another organization that focusses the positive power of our industry is The Portland Kitchen. They use food and cooking to change the lives of underserved youth. According to their website, “We empower students to create healthy lifestyles, get meaningful employment and to become great citizens of our community.” The Portland Kitchen has needs for volunteers every day of the week and provides Culinary-to-Career programs and more!

Great ideas are everywhere! 
A checklist from the National Restaurant Association (NRA):
  • Listen to your staff. Your employees are your greatest asset when it comes to charitable giving, so support causes that they care about. 
  • Empower staff to select the charitable programs and volunteer efforts. Several companies have created task forces or committees made up of staff members at all levels to help decide what charities to support and to organize volunteer days.
  • Observe your staff for in-house opportunities. For example, you might discover that some employees could benefit from additional English language training or financial literacy skills.
  • Organize community service projects for staff. By working together outside the restaurant with your staff, you can build more camaraderie. Some companies also offer paid time-off for staff to volunteer.
  • Encourage your chefs to teach cooking and nutrition courses to individuals at risk of hunger and malnutrition. There are several organizations, such as Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters, the American Culinary Foundation Education Foundation Chef & Child Foundation and Feeding America’s Kids Cafe, that offer such classes. 
  • Hire local high school students. These students could work at your establishment and on your charitable project. Learn about the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s ProStart program and how you can get involved; 81 percent of students who receive the ProStart National Certificate of Achievement are still working in the restaurant industry five years later. (See the recap of ORLA Education Foundation’s Oregon ProStart Culinary Championships on page 26).
  • Finally, be sure to use social media to tell your community giving story. Post pictures of your staff helping at charity events, working in the garden, or supporting the youth teams in your area. Make it your goal to create photo-worthy activities for your staff.  When you do, you assure that the involvement and goodwill touches the community and makes a difference.  And if you want to brainstorm ideas for your goodwill team, schedule a meeting with the Sysco Business Resources department.  They can help you and your staff get pointed in the right goodwill direction. | Garett Smith, Marketing Manager, Sysco Portland 

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    Want help getting on trend? Bring in an expert from your foodservice distributor partner; a Sysco Marketing Associate is backed by a foodie army of experts, and they have the ingredients and solutions to help you offer memorable endings to your delicious meals. Syscoportland.com