In Chicago and other cities across the country, Latino workers are the backbone of the restaurant industry, and the pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on the physical, emotional and financial health of restaurant workers.
Three years ago, a group of hospitality workers formed a non-profit organization aimed at connecting struggling hospitality workers with mental health care. The founders of Support Staff, both experienced in the hospitality industry, say they are addressing a need that has not been met for too long.
“I think it’s an industry where people take better care of their guests than themselves,” said co-founder Kristina Magro. “Most people can be great to you, but it’s that 10% of negative experiences that over one year, five years, 10 years really touch you. “
“So many times we are told that no matter what you go through in your life, leave it at the door when you walk in, you just have to put your face on,” adds co-founder Mony Bunni. “It has an impact on your emotions. “
They created the support staff in 2018 with mental health as a primary focus. Workers seeking mental health care can request a consultation with their Director of Therapeutic Services, who will then help them connect them to affordable treatment resources.
The organization also hosts two podcasts, including a series called “Bite Size”.
“It’s a psycho-educational mini-series that explains, for example, what is mental health, what is emotional work, stress, coping mechanisms, things like that “said Bunni.
When the pandemic wreaked havoc on the restaurant industry, they launched the Comp Tab Relief Fund to provide direct cash assistance to workers in need.
“Many people risked their lives without health insurance and in addition, not [getting] appropriate care or long hours or [being] dehumanized by the general public, ”said Magro.
They also opened a storefront in Humboldt Park called People / Profit offering free clothing, food and other resources to anyone in need.
“People Over Profit addresses some of these things that affect your sanity, and it’s your livelihood, it’s your clothes, it’s your food. We’re just trying to bring together the resources that we have to alleviate some of these stresses. “
“What 2020 has really revealed is that we have to support each other,” Bunni said. “We have to take care of each other. “