Responding to COVID-19: Update

March 13, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic escalates, our thoughts are with everyone who has been impacted.

Many of those at risk are the people we serve every day, so we wanted to share with you how we have been responding with the information below.

Even in the midst of this crisis, FareStart is doing what it has done for nearly 30 years – feeding communities in need while providing job training opportunities.

In fact, we’re gearing up to serve more meals than ever before.

Emergency Response Meal Support

As COVID-19 impacts our entire community, we’re stepping up to help our most vulnerable neighbors. This week alone, we’ve provided 20,935 meals – almost 2,000 more than our usual weekly volume – and are scaling up our kitchens and redeploying our students and staff to be able to produce even more meals. DESC, Plymouth Housing, Seattle Indian Health Board Elders Program and Navos Mental Health Solutions are just a few of the organizations we’re supporting. We’re also partnering with King County to provide meals to quarantine and isolation facilities. Finally, we’re working with community organizations to assess potential food needs throughout the crisis and how we could provide support.  

Job Training Programs

Our job training programs are the cornerstone of our mission and we are doing everything we can to ensure programming continues. We are still providing job training to our adult students along with housing, transportation, mental health support and other critical wraparound support services. With the closure of Seattle Public Schools, we have temporarily paused our Youth Culinary Training. Youth Barista students are on hold from training, but staying engaged by working on emergency meals. 

Social Enterprise Businesses

Business has dwindled for the FareStart Restaurant and FareStart Catering, and we need the kitchens to support the growing need for meals in the community. We made the difficult decision to temporarily close the FareStart Restaurant. Guest Chef Night will be cancelled through at least April 23. We look forward to rescheduling the chefs and volunteer groups later in the year and welcoming back the community in the weeks ahead. Our cafes in South Lake Union and Beacon Hill remain open for now and are following all CDC and Public Health protocols. We will continue to reassess regularly.

National Support

Catalyst Kitchens, our national consulting and membership program, is working remotely but closely with nonprofit organizations across the county to help them prepare and respond to the COVID-19 crisis in their own communities. Since Seattle is on the frontlines of COVID-19 in the United States, we are in a position to share our learnings and best practices to date. 


The health and safety of our students is a top priority. We are enacting all protocols to keep our workplace safe for them, and practicing social distancing in our facilities. We are also in frequent contact with our shelter and housing partners.

Staff & Volunteers

We are working hard to take care of our staff who put our mission into action every single day. We have updated work-from-home and time off policies to support staff during this challenging time. We have also redeployed catering and restaurant staff impacted by the slow-down in our social enterprises to other parts of the organization. Our goal is to keep staff working and getting paid.

Out of an abundance of caution, we’ve temporarily paused on volunteer support. This was a difficult decision since volunteers are such a critical part of our work. We’re continuing to stay in close contact with our volunteers and are working to anticipate future needs. 

Contingency & Protocol Planning

In conjunction with King County Health Department and other social service providers, FareStart is working to minimize the impact of various COVID-19 scenarios to our organization and students. Possible scenarios include: administrative staff member tests positive, mass outbreak or quarantine at one of our student shelter partners, suspending job training programs. The situation is ever-evolving and we want to be as prepared as possible. 

How can you help?

We know this is an extremely challenging time for our community. Nearly everyone has been impacted in some way. Now more than ever we need to come together as a community to support one another. 

  1. Protect yourself and others and follow guidelines from the King County-Seattle Public Health.
  2. Stay informed and help dispel misinformation and discrimination associated with COVID-19. Resources here. 
  3. Donate to support FareStart’s mission and help ensure students receive critical training, and so we can continue to provide meals to the community. As businesses encourage their staff to work from home, our social enterprises are being impacted. You can ease our losses during this difficult period with your support.
  4. Support your local restaurants, cafes, small businesses and other nonprofit organizations as you are able. They’re hurting and need our help.