As the COVID-19 outbreak in Oregon continues to impact the local restaurant market, stories are popping up across the city, from food cart owners giving away free meals to chefs starting Instagram cooking classes. In this new version of AM Intel, we dive into different ways the state’s food service industry has been responding to the global pandemic. For more COVID-19 stories, check out our larger story stream.
The Outbreak at the Berry Farm
For those who missed it, Multnomah County saw a recent spike in coronavirus cases traced back to a single business — a fruit company with locations in Cornelius and Fairview. Townsend Farms has had two COVID-19 outbreaks since late April: the first infected 53 people, but state and county officials did not publicly disclose the Townsend outbreak. This new outbreak has at least 48 people testing positive for coronavirus, all of them seasonal workers who arrived in late May. Officials believe the workers contracted the virus before arriving at Townsend.
A complaint filed with the Oregon Occupational Safety & Health Administration implies that things did not change to accommodate the first outbreak, according to Willamette Week. “Social distancing and sanitation is not performed or maintained,” the complaint reads. “Employees tested positive for COVID-19 last week and are back at work four days after testing positive.” Townsend Farms supplies frozen berries to Costco, most notably.
All of this comes as Multnomah County prepares its application for phase one reopening permissions.
Aid for Business Owners of Color
A portion of Oregon’s congressional delegation are calling for more coronavirus-related financial relief for communities of color, who have been disproportionately affected by the crisis. “The pandemic that we’re in has highlighted so many existing disparities for historically underserved communities and exposed systemic barriers that have already existed,” says U.S. Representative Suzanne Bonamici. The Paycheck Protection Program does not collect demographic information in terms of lending, but Oregon has a history of racial disparity when it comes to who gets loans: Between 2007 and 2015, the number of small business loans given to black-owned businesses in Oregon dropped from 66 percent to six percent, and black-owned businesses only received 3 percent of 7(a) guaranteed loans in 2019. The delegates say they will endorse various pending bills, like the Rebuilding Main Street Act, which would allow business owners to share payroll costs with the federal government, also providing grants to help survive the remainder of the coronavirus pandemic.
In Other News...
• Pix Patisserie is now selling its fancy chocolates and macarons in a 24-hour vending machine. [WWeek]
• Ava Gene’s is building a walk-up window for a marketplace they’re calling Shipshape Goods, selling seafood sandwiches, pantry basics, and pastries. [Portland Monthly]
• Coming soon for takeout: celebrated Pacific Northwestern restaurant Higgins, starting June 5. Recently back in the game: Legendary fried chicken spot Reel M Inn is now serving its fried chicken in a sandwich for takeout, with a side of jojos, of course. [EaterWire]