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HEINZ Partners With The LEE Initiative to Help Preserve Black-Owned Restaurants’ Cultural Legacy

Partnership will include a grant program and other resources to sustain long-term business health

As a brand that’s been around for over 150 years, HEINZ recognizes the profound influence food can have on culture. America’s Black-owned restaurants are cultural treasures that have been instrumental in shaping the food and flavor we enjoy today. HEINZ is partnering with nonprofit restaurant equality organization The LEE Initiative and Southern Restaurants for Racial Justice (SRRJ) in a collective effort to preserve the legacy of Black-owned restaurants through a grant program and other resources to help sustain long-term business health and success. The partnership is about more than just saving restaurants; it’s about preserving Black culture today and into the future.

This press release features multimedia. View the full release here:

HEINZ launches a new grant program with The LEE Initiative to preserve Black-owned restaurants’ cultural legacy. (Graphic: Business Wire)

HEINZ launches a new grant program with The LEE Initiative to preserve Black-owned restaurants’ cultural legacy. (Graphic: Business Wire)

“It’s no secret HEINZ has celebrated the role food plays in our communities, especially in diners and restaurants, for as long as we’ve been around. But entrepreneurship is also in our brand DNA and has been one of H.J. Heinz’s core values since day one,” said Molly White, general manager and VP, Taste Elevation, Kraft Heinz. “Black-owned restaurants are critically important to communities across the country and we saw this as an opportunity to help ensure these businesses thrive for years to come. We’re proud to kick off a partnership with The LEE Initiative to help foster a more diverse and equitable restaurant industry as well as preserve the legacy of these restaurants, and we anticipate working closely together as we celebrate, honor and uplift culinary leaders in the Black community.”

The partnership will kick off with the distribution of 60 grants through SRRJ, a coalition of industry leaders doing the work to benefit Black-owned restaurants and communities. The grants are designed to help them prosper through financial support and a range of in-kind resources including:

  • Providing financial support of up to $20K per grant
  • Broadening restaurants’ reach through owner story spotlights via HEINZ-owned social media channels and paid publishing channel partners to generate awareness and drive traffic to their restaurants
  • Leveraging HEINZ employee resources and business expertise to further support the longevity of Black-owned restaurants and entrepreneurship, such as assistance, training and resources in human resources, finance, marketing and more

“Restaurants are in a perilous time and their struggles do not disappear because COVID restrictions are lifted,” said Chef Edward Lee, co-founder and creative director, The LEE Initiative. “Black-owned restaurants, especially traditional, family-owned ones, are especially at risk right now. We are excited to partner with HEINZ—an American classic—to identify and help preserve many of these incredible Black-owned restaurants that are also at the heart of the classic American dinner table.”

Starting today through May 8, restaurant owners can apply here for a grant. Applications will be reviewed by SRRJ founders and a selection committee and will be evaluated on factors including a restaurant’s community involvement and plans for the grant money.

The grants offered through SRRJ are part of a purposeful, multiyear partnership between HEINZ and The LEE Initiative that will grow and evolve over time. This initiative also reflects the commitment Kraft Heinz and its brands, including HEINZ, have to demanding diversity and fully living the Company’s values.


We are driving transformation at The Kraft Heinz Company (Nasdaq: KHC), inspired by our Purpose, Let's Make Life Delicious. Consumers are at the center of everything we do. With 2020 net sales of approximately $26 billion, we are committed to growing our iconic and emerging food and beverage brands on a global scale. We leverage our scale and agility to unleash the full power of Kraft Heinz across a portfolio of six consumer-driven product platforms. As global citizens, we're dedicated to making a sustainable, ethical impact while helping feed the world in healthy, responsible ways. Learn more about our journey by visiting or following us on LinkedIn and Twitter.


The LEE (Let's Empower Employment) Initiative, founded in 2017 by Lindsey Ofcacek and Edward Lee, aims to address issues of equality and diversity in the restaurant industry by implementing programs to directly support people in hospitality. The first initiative was the Women Chefs in Kentucky program which provides mentorship opportunities to female chefs in Kentucky. In response to massive layoffs in the hospitality industry due to the COVID-19 outbreak nationwide The LEE Initiative, in partnership with Maker's Mark, launched The Restaurant Workers Relief Program. This program started on Tuesday, March 17 out of the catering kitchen of Lee's restaurant, 610 Magnolia, and has since expanded to include services offered out of 19 kitchens nationwide, and 600,000 meals served thus far. As restaurants start to reopen, The LEE Initiative launched the Restaurant Reboot Relief Program to help fix the supply chain, committing to invest $1 million into sustainable farms. Farms will then give that product to restaurant partners as the restaurants reopen. Following the death of Chef David McAtee, The LEE Initiative launched McAtee Community Kitchen, which serves fresh meals and groceries to families in Louisville's Shelby Park, Smoketown and West End neighborhoods. For more information, please visit


Southern Restaurants for Racial Justice is a coalition of bakers, chefs, makers, and restaurant owners joined together to do the work to benefit Black communities in the South, specifically Black-owned restaurants that are struggling in this dire time. Our aim is to collectively raise and provide financial resources to protect Black businesses in our industry while also amplifying Black leadership, messaging, and progress. As a coalition, we aim to provide opportunities for our members to support our causes without burdening our already overwhelmed industry, truly engaging in the idea that many hands make light work and that, together, we can create a much more significant impact for change. We are committed to this work and aim to keep the momentum of this moment alive in our efforts for many years to come.


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