Oakland-based nonprofit Community Kitchens, a collective of chefs and restaurateurs, recently launched a new food-justice program called Dining for Justice to ensure no one goes hungry in the community. Launched last month, it’s the first-of-its-kind program that adds a 1% surcharge on diners’ bills at participating restaurants, with 100% of the proceeds used to fund the ingredients, preparation and labor to serve thousands of hot meals a month to the city’s unhoused community.
Community Kitchens’ partner restaurants were brought together by the pandemic, when they transformed their kitchens to cook meals for anyone who was struggling to eat. Since March 2020, Community Kitchens has provided more than 100,000 meals to those who need it most, and over $1 million in much-needed funds to more 50 local restaurants so they could sustain their businesses while they helped to sustain others.
“We believe food is a basic human right,” says Maria Alderete, owner of Luka’s Taproom and Lounge in Oakland and cofounder of Community Kitchens. “We can’t emerge from the pandemic and go back to the way it was. We must transform the restaurant industry and embed positive social impact into our business models to help address food insecurity in Oakland. We believe this visionary approach will be a blueprint for other communities to build a sustainable food justice model. This is a food revolution, and it will be delicious!”
So far more than 30 Oakland restaurants are participating in the program, including Agave Uptown, Calavera, Everett & Jones BBQ, Hopscotch Restaurant & Bar and Mela Bistro. Here are three more to try:
Head to Oakland’s charming Rockridge neighborhood for Mediterranean small plates (think Pernod-bathed mussels cooked in a wood oven and pomme frites) paired with seasonal cocktails like the house spritz (Patxaran sloe liqueur and soda) or a glass of vino from the French- and Italian-leaning wine menu.
Chef Nigel Jones serves up flavorful Jamaican fare like jerk chicken and curry goat with plantains and rice and peas, along with rum-based cocktails like the signature K11 rum punch, to a reggae soundtrack at this Uptown fixture.
Wash down creative Mexican dishes — like Baja-style fish tacos spiked with Korean chile aioli or quesadillas stuffed with delicata squash and drizzled with black sesame za’atar-spiced crema — with a mezcal margarita inside the repurposed shipping containers set atop an abandoned parking lot or on the sprawling patio at this Oakland waterfront establishment.
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Lotus Abrams has covered everything from beauty to business to tech in her editorial career, but it might be writing about her native Bay Area that inspires her most. She lives with her husband and two daughters in the San Francisco Peninsula, where they enjoy spending time outdoors at the area’s many open spaces protected and preserved by her favorite local nonprofit, the Peninsula Open Space Trust.