Coffee Businesses Providing COVID-19 Relief: Part Four

We continue our spotlight on initiatives that the coffee community is taking to help out groups affected by COVID-19.


As the weeks following the COVID-19 pandemic continue to plague the lives of people around the world, coffee businesses are astounding us with their creative and thoughtful initiatives to better the greater community in need. From small but mighty grassroots operations by independent cafés to large-scale donations by successful companies, we’ve been honored to report on what they’re doing to help out. We feature another week of initiatives that are aiding many folks in need, including health-care pros, baristas, coffee producers, and others.

Bird & Branch has delivered care packages and coffee-pastry sets to hospital workers across New York City, including this crew pictured at Bellevue Hospital. Photo courtesy of Bird & Branch.

#GiveCOVIDTheBird by Bird & Branch

Although Bird & Branch has closed its doors in NYC to patrons, they’re still baking up a storm in the café for health-care workers. Thanks to financial donations from dedicated clientele, the team has been able to deliver hundreds of goodies to hospital workers across the New York metropolitan area. “The owners [Brandon and Faith Lee] realized the shop did no good by being open so they temporarily closed it,” says Mary Wolmart, assistant manager at Bird & Branch. “There isn’t much coffee can do directly during this time and many are suffering. But thankfully we’ve been able to find a small way to bring some good by providing joy to people.”

When you go on the café’s official website, you have the opportunity to purchase a coffee-breakfast kit for a health-care worker or even a care package for a friend in need within the United States. “The number of messages we get from the recipients is numerous!” Mary says. “Of course we’re still a small shop with three people doing a lot of work so it isn’t a huge number, but we know these care packages are having an emotional impact.”

Water Avenue prepares sanitized beverage holders to go out to Stone Soup for their take-away lunch program for Portland individuals experiencing homelessness. Photo courtesy of Water Avenue Coffee.

Meal Delivery by Stone Soup PDX, Water Avenue Coffee and Portland, Ore.-area- restaurants

Stone Soup is a nonprofit organization that provides culinary training and life skills to individuals experiencing barriers to employment. While these operations have been put on hold due to the pandemic, Stone Soup has switched into food prep mode, with help from several other restaurateurs in the Portland area. In partnership with Multnomah County, these groups have been working to prepare take-away meals for people experiencing homelessness, and Water Avenue Coffee is the official beverage provider. “We are VERY THANKFUL to these food and beverage providers for their continuous hard work in helping keep the guests at the county shelters nourished with balanced and healthy meals,” says the team at Stone Soup. “We are also thankful to Multnomah County who is playing a key role in keeping these restaurants operational during this difficult time.” According to Water Avenue co-owner Matt Milletto, Stone Soup and company have provided about 9,000 meals and beverages per week! To donate to the cause, head here.

Melitta USA’s pourover sales go to GoFundBean tip jars through the end of June. Photo courtesy of Melitta USA.

Melitta USA and GoFundBean Partner to Support Baristas in Need

GoFundBean has been one of the first initiatives to support baristas when they began getting laid off during the pandemic. Recently, manual coffee brewer manufacturers Melitta USA stepped in to join the cause, and 100% of pourover equipment sales from their website goes directly to GoFundBean through the end of June. The natural shift from café coffee to home brewing has been enormous, and with the help from these sales, consumers who haven’t seen these virtual tipjars will still end up supporting their baristas after all! “We’re incredibly grateful for GoFundBean and other organizations that are stepping in to provide assistance to an integral part of the coffee community that is experiencing significant impact from COVID-19,” says Chris Hillman, vice president of marketing at Melitta USA. “It’s great to see the industry banding together to help those in need, and Melitta is proud to be a part of that effort.” To grab a cone yourself, check out the online store, or submit a café to GoFundBean for it to be added to their donations list.

Sustainable Harvest’s producer relief kits include items like sanitation equipment and nonperishable foods. Photo courtesy of Sustainable Harvest.

The Producer Relief Fund by Sustainable Harvest

COVID-19-related threats to the production chain have been slowly unfolding in several ways, and among the people who are most affected are coffee producers. One way that coffee importer Sustainable Harvest has seen farmers affected is the lack of food security for them and their families. Therefore, the company established a producer relief fund, in which they have contributed $156,000 to cooperatives that are coordinating assistance to their producers based on each community’s specific needs. In addition to this, Sustainable Harvest has started a GoFundMe for what they call “farmer relief kits,” which include essential supplies like nonperishable foods, protective equipment, and sanitation supplies—things that are currently harder to access with road closures, lockdowns, and enforced closures. To help sponsor a kit, donate here.

Upstate Coffee Collective

The Saratoga Springs, N.Y.-based coffee club was getting ready to gear up for their March Meetup group when things took a left turn, with all future meetings canceled indefinitely. After getting permission from their community to donate their monthly club funds to virtual tipjars, the gang had a moment of clarity upon realizing that the initially planned $100 wasn’t going to be nearly enough to cover their fellow baristas. Therefore, they gave their entirety of funds, $560, to six different local tipjars. “We could not be a Coffee Collective without a functioning coffee industry, and your generosity in keeping our Meetups moving has gone towards lessening an already heavy blow to the industry (and the world),” says the Upstate Coffee Collective in their COVID-19 response blog post. “We may be starting from zero again, but so are many others and we hope our (Collective) small act of generosity inspires others.” In the meantime, you can check out the weekly podcast they’ve been doing to keep their community connected, or their new coffee retail series called Highlight Roasts.

About Katrina Yentch 221 Articles
Katrina Yentch (she/her) is a freelance writer and Barista Magazine's Online Editor. When she's not writing, you can find her napping, cooking, and drinking whatever's on drip.