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The celebrity-endorsed program has made national news for its efficacy and scalability, needed now more than ever.

When Audible isn’t delivering the best audiobooks and podcasts straight to your ears or reinvigorating American cities (see How Audible is Helping Revive Newark), they’re busy feeding Newark. In response to COVID-19, the tech giant has teamed up with celebrated chef Marcus Samuelsson to launch Newark Working Kitchens, a program that provides food to those in need and supports Newark’s restaurants and small-business economy.

The premise of Newark Working Kitchens is as simple as it is revolutionary. With the help of their sponsors (an impressive list that includes TD Bank, PSEG, Thrive Global, City of Newark, World Central Kitchen and even actor Michael B. Jordan, who donated an undisclosed amount to the project, according to Bloomberg) Audible pays local restaurants to cook nutritious meals for low-income seniors and the unhoused community. Since its launch in March, Newark Working Kitchens has delivered over 685,000 meals and kept 24 local restaurants afloat.

That equals 685,000 full bellies and countless employees and vendors financially secure. For many operators, Newark Working Kitchens was an unexpected – and much needed – lifeline. Kai Campbell, owner of The Walla, was about to close his doors when he got the call. He was able to keep his business open and rehire seven members of staff almost immediately.

On the Newark Working Kitchens website, Kai says, “My wrists are sore, my hands are chafed because my knife skills are improving again. So, that’s sort of like the city, we’re sharpening our knives again so that when this comes out, we’re going to be able to dice anything. None of it would have been possible without the help, support, guidance, and initiative undertaken by Newark Working Kitchens.”

While part of its brilliance is it’s scalability – similar organizations would thrive in any city – Newark Working Kitchens is especially necessary in Newark. The city has been marked by decades of inequality and poverty. The loss of the restaurant industry would be devastating to the city, which was already one of the hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

So really, it’s not just philanthropy – it’s also good business. In an interview with NJ Spotlight, Audible founder Don Katz explains how saving the small business economy – like restaurants – keeps larger corporations interested in planting their roots in cities like Newark, which in turn leads to economic growth and stability for the community at large. It’s part of Audible’s urban revival efforts, which you can read more about here [link to “How Audible is Helping Revive Newark”]. The program has been so successful, it’s been covered in national news outlets like CNN, Today, Food & Wine, Bloomberg and Fast Company, each one praising Newark Working Kitchens business model, and encouraging other cities to adopt something similar.

Even former Newark mayor (and presidential hopeful) Cory Booker believes in the project. Senator Booker said, “This effort has created a successful model to support the tremendous comeback our city is currently undertaking, and I hope to see this effort scaled in New Jersey and nationwide as a way to continue combatting this pandemic’s health and economic devastation.”

Keep an eye out on Newark Working Kitchens as they continue to help Newark and New Jersey over the coming months. If you’d like to support their work, you can donate through their website here.

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