Chef Marcus Samuelsson has partnered with the team at Sage Digital to launch a digital platform called Project Bento that supports chefs and food activists feeding communities affected by the coronavirus crisis, food insecurity, racial injustice and a whole lot more.
The platform was created by Harlem-based chef Samuelsson, of Red Rooster Harlem, Derek Evans (CEO of the Marcus Samuelsson Group) and Sage Digital, a start-up creating tools for reviewers, chefs and other experts to publish content and build a following.
Samuelsson and his team looked to reinvent the annual Harlem EatUp festival during lockdown, by migrating activity online with a new format. They came up with Harlem Serves Up, a fundraising telethon for non-profits fighting food insecurity. But they were unsatisfied with the fundraising options they found and decided to collaborate with the Sage Digital team. The result: Project Bento.
The project was built on the existing Sage Digital platform in around eight weeks, and allows non-profits to raise funds, publish content, promote on social media and track their campaigns, all without an initial fee. The platform also includes tools for managing sponsorships and matching donors.
Project Bento found immediate success, raising more than $350,000 for Harlem Serves Up, as well as $4.8 million for the Project Bento Fund, a new non-profit that matches campaigns with available funds.
The entirety of donations will go to the specified beneficiary, with three types of Project Bento programs outlined: funds to support out-of-work restaurant staff, funds for restart/rebuild programs to help restaurants and businesses to open and stay in business, as well as support for restaurants using their space as a community kitchen to feed locals in need.
“There are communities not just in Harlem, but across the country, that need a campaign, they need to connect. Project Bento will continue because that need, raising money and connecting a community, will continue.” - Marcus Samuelsson
Harlem has provided an excellent test base for Project Bento, and now they are looking to take the winning formula nationwide, including Harlem, Newark, Overtown, Oakland, New Orleans, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago.
Participating restaurants and businesses are nominated and verified by Project Bento to receive the Project Bento Matching Fund for campaigns for supported charities, employee relief and restart /rebuild business needs.