Fort Worth Food + Wine Foundation expands services with new partnership

Chris Shepherd, award-winning chef and Southern Smoke Foundation founder (Photo courtesy SSF)

The Fort Worth Food  + Wine Foundation (FWFWF) is teaming up with  the Southern Smoke Foundation (SSF) to help food and beverage workers in crisis by providing emergency relief funds and access to no-cost mental health services.

The Fort Worth Food + Wine Foundation, an organization dedicated to celebrating and supporting the North Texas culinary community, announced the partnership Monday along with a $25,000 gift from the foundation to SSF. The money will be used to assist culinary industry workers needing emergency relief across Tarrant County, FWFWF said in a news release.

Southern Smoke Foundation (SSF) is a renowned nationwide nonprofit founded by award-winning chef Chris Shepherd.

“Individual financial emergency support is crucial for workers in an industry who often find themselves without a safety net,” said Russell Kirkpatrick, co-founder of the Fort Worth Food  + Wine Foundation. “We initially started our Emergency Relief Fund program in response to COVID-19 in 2020. Now, nearly four years later, the foundation has realized the need continues for ongoing emergency response and so much more!”

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“Our team is working to refocus our efforts on the funding for restaurant growth and innovation and expansion of chef festival participation,” Kirkpatrick added. “This new partnership with Southern Smoke Foundation allows us to connect national resources with our local community to ensure that chefs, restaurateurs, and beverage workers in our county are getting access to year round, immediate support. FWFWF will continue to raise funds locally and be good stewards of those generous donations and ensure they stay in our neighborhood.”

FWFWF has distributed more than $100,000 in emergency assistance grants to food and beverage workers in the Fort Worth area, according to the news release. Since 2015, SSF has granted over $12.1 million to food and beverage workers nationwide, assisting with essential costs such as housing, groceries and medical care, and with free mental health services through university affiliates, including the University of North Texas.

“A partnership with Fort Worth Food + Wine Foundation makes all the sense in the world,” said Chris Shepherd. “I cooked at their festival a few years ago, and we’re so like-minded in the ways we take care of our communities and the food and beverage industry. I know this partnership will bring greater awareness about Southern Smoke Foundation to North Texas food and beverage workers so they can utilize both our emergency relief and mental health resources. We’re proud to work with FWFWF to take care of our own.”

To help familiarize local food and beverage workers with the services being offered, the Fort Worth Food + Wine Foundation will hold an  information session at  3 p.m. July 16 at TX Whiskey Ranch, 2601 Whiskey Ranch Road, Fort Worth. The event is open to all culinary professionals; leaders of both FWFWF and SSF will be on hand to answer questions and provide detailed guidance on how to access emergency relief funds and mental health services.

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The Fort Worth Food + Wine Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit funded by proceeds from the annual Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival. More information is available on the foundation’s website.