Labor: Connecting Labor Surpluses and Shortages During COVID-19

Past Event

Wednesday April 22, 2020

While millions of Americans have been hit by the wave of unemployment, some sectors, including food recovery, don’t have enough labor to meet record demand. We’ll discuss how to match people willing and able to work with organizations that need them.


Katherine Miller

Vice President of Impact, James Beard Foundation

Melissa Speisman

Vice President and National Site Director, Food Rescue US

Denise Osterhues

Senior Director - Sustainability & Community Engagement, The Kroger Co.

Event Resources
Key Takeaways


Melissa, Denise, and Katherine each repeatedly reminded us of the importance of taking care of each other. We have to stay well now if we’re to rebound strong when the world opens back up. This includes adopting the physical cleanliness and safety measures the CDC recommends, but also goes further. Denise highlighted how Kroger is providing additional time off and shortening store hours to facilitate recuperation, as well as boosting morale with positive reinforcement like recognitions and “hero” bonuses. This is a marathon, not a sprint, after all (though it probably feels like both).


This is a best practice from last week worth repeating: the best way to prevent labor disruptions is to keep operations going. On last week’s installment, Melissa called in as a guest to share that Food Rescue US is doing this by forming community kitchens in corporate dining facilities; this keeps kitchens open, labor in place, and food flowing. This week, Katherine added that a recent James Beard Foundation (JBF) survey showed 30% of their members are continuing operations by feeding hospital workers, supplying school food centers, or feeding restaurant workers in need.

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