• Region’s workforce experts to help equip local restaurants with resources to feed essential workers and community members in need
  • Restaurant owners commit to initiative that increases wages and equity for employees over time, led by Ponce’s and Super Cocina


San Diego – May 1, 2020 – Today, Governor Newsom’s administration announced a program called High Road Kitchens, a statewide network of independent restaurants that provide food on a sliding scale to low-wage workers, health care workers, first responders and others in need. Launched during the COVID-19 crisis, High Road Kitchens provides jobs for restaurant workers and a subsidy for responsible restaurant owners who commit to paying a living wage and following equitable employment practices across the state.

The San Diego Workforce Partnership and The San Diego Foundation are coordinating with local restaurants in the region—including Ponce’s Mexican Restaurant and Super Cocina—and the One Fair Wage campaign—to fund the training, start-up costs and initial wages for workers rehired as part of this initiative.

Each participating restaurant will serve at least 500 free meals to essential and low-wage workers over the course of the program, as well as offer curbside pickup for customers paying on a sliding scale, allowing customers who are financially able to subsidize free meals for those who are food insecure during the COVID-19 crisis. The project’s goal is to include at least 15 restaurants and serve at least 7,500 free meals.

The San Diego Workforce Partnership has set aside $150,000 for phase one of the project. The San Diego Foundation has contributed $110,000.


Many service sector businesses have shut down or reduced their workforce during COVID-19 due to limited financial resources, but there are still people without sufficient access to food during the pandemic. High Road Kitchens provides funding and resources for restaurants to reopen to feed those in their community who need it, while also providing a livable wage for its employees. Locally, the Workforce Partnership ensures these businesses are supported in both these short- and long-term goals, positioning “High Road” restaurants to survive during the COVID-19 crisis, and thrive after the immediate crisis subsides—creating high quality jobs for more San Diego residents.

How It Works:

High Road Kitchens, in partnership with private funders and state and local governments, provide participating restaurants with initial start-up costs related to food, safety precaution process changes, and packing and distribution supplies and wage subsidies for on-the-job training for two months. Participating restaurants will provide food on a sliding scale to paying customers, and 500 free meals to low-wage workers, health care workers and first responders. This allows them to hire or rehire employees, as well as provide meals for those in need.

By participating, these restaurant owners make a commitment to a high road to profitability that includes higher than industry standard wage and benefits over the next 5 years to their employees, among additional commitments related to race, ethnicity and gender equity during and after the Coronavirus social distancing requirements.

Order from Ponce’s here or Super Cocina here.


“This initiative benefits our entire community: local restaurants and their employees and customers, as well as essential workers. In this time of great need, these small businesses are able to take care of our region’s first responders and low-wage workers. Participating restaurants are also setting a standard for job quality, wages and benefits.” says Peter Callstrom, CEO of San Diego Workforce Partnership.

“This pandemic has hit restaurants hard, and it’s been a rollercoaster for our entire staff and their families. Now, with High Road Kitchens, we’re able keep our employees working with the long-term initiative of increasing their wages. Being able to welcome the community with food is exactly why we’re here, and now we get to show extra love to those who need it most,” says Mikey Knab, Director of Operations at Ponce’s Mexican Restaurant.

“Helping our neighbors and friends get through this pandemic requires a multitude of unique collaborations like High Road Kitchens,” shared Mark Stuart, President and CEO of The San Diego Foundation. “We are honored to be a lead partner in this innovative initiative connecting the generous spirit of San Diegans with the vital needs of our community.”

Additional Details and Contact:


About One Fair Wage’s High Road Kitchens

High Road Kitchens is a project of the One Fair Wage Campaign and its RAISE (Restaurants Advancing Industry Standards in Employment) network of high road employers;  the Cooking Project; and Robert Egger, the founder of DC Central Kitchen. For more information, visit highroadkitchens.com. One Fair Wage is a campaign advancing policy, driving industry change, and shifting the narrative in order to ensure that all workers in America are paid at least the full minimum wage from their employers.

About the San Diego Workforce Partnership

The Workforce Partnership is the leader for innovative workforce solutions in San Diego County. It funds and delivers job training programs that enable all job seekers to develop the skills and knowledge needed for in-demand careers. The Workforce Partnership also provides ongoing labor market research on the region’s workforce trends and key industries. Its vision is to ensure that every business in our region has access to a skilled workforce and every job seeker has access to meaningful employment. For more information, visit workforce.org.

About The San Diego Foundation

The San Diego Foundation inspires enduring philanthropy and enables community solutions to improve quality of life in our region. For more than 40 years, The Foundation and our donors have granted more than $1.2 billion to support nonprofit organizations and strengthen our San Diego community. Learn more at SDFoundation.org and consider a donation to the San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund, helping nonprofits and San Diegans affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

About the San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund

The San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund at The San Diego Foundation was created in partnership with San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, San Diego Gas & Electric, United Way of San Diego County, San Diego & Imperial Counties Labor Council, NEWS 8 and Alliance Healthcare Foundation to receive donations and make rapid response grants to nonprofit organizations supporting impacted communities, particularly those that are disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic and its economic consequences. Grants focus on food security; other essential living expenses; emergent needs such as closing the digital divide; and rent and utility payment support. Thousands of individuals, businesses and foundations have contributed to the Fund. Learn more at SDFoundation.org/COVID19.