'Masks for Meals' aims to keep South Bay businesses afloat while providing relief to impacted workers

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Tuesday, April 6, 2021
'Masks for Meals' finds creative approach to feed jobless in SJ
A recently launched Masks for Meals effort is helping to keep locally owned businesses afloat, and to keep any impacted employees fed.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- A recently launched Masks for Meals effort is helping to keep locally owned businesses afloat, and to keep any impacted employees fed.

It's called 86C19.

"When things get 86'd in the restaurant business, we get rid of it. We're out of it," organizer Carl Foisy explained about the name. "It's not here anymore!"

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And until the COVID-19 pandemic is over, Foisy's message reads loud and clear, "86 C-19."

The effort launched late last summer. Foisy and his business partner, Brian Schwab, started to put that branding on reusable masks and began selling them.

For every $500 made in mask sales, 100-percent of that money goes to purchasing meals from a customer-nominated, randomly selected local restaurant in San Jose.

The process begins with a mask purchase.

"People go to 86C19.com, click join. They join the movement, they decide what they want to buy one. Then they nominate a restaurant," Foisy explained.

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When $500 is reached, Foisy and his daughter record themselves drawing a name out of a hat. Videos of this process have been posted to the 86C19 Facebook page.

"What we do is, we go to the restaurant and see if they want to participate," he shared. "And each time has been a little different."

Foisy continued, "In some cases, some restaurants actually matched what we were doing and gave double. It was really cool. I mean, there's so much giving to be done with this."

These prepaid meals are meant to feed those who are furloughed, underemployed, or unemployed due to the pandemic.

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"So far, we've been able to negotiate 130 meals total, that we've been able to provide," Foisy told ABC7 News. "All from different places and all the places that have been nominated."

He said a more recent example of the effort in action involved The Farmers Union in Downtown San Jose.

"We had 30 people between Monday and Saturday- signed up for whatever meal they wanted and showed up and got a meal," Foisy shared. "No questions asked."

Beyond meal relief, Foisy said the money paid provides much needed support to small business owners.

"We don't try to negotiate and have a better rate for them," he added. "We paid the price that was on their menu for that meal. That is the money they deserve to get."

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Foisy admitted he was inspired by Haberdasher SJ owner, Cache Bouren and a restaurant owner named Jim Stump.

"What they were doing for the restaurant industry was helping provide meals by any means they could," Foisy shared. "Whether they were sharing meals from one restaurant to another, or if they were getting liquor companies and people of that nature to sponsor and purchase meals, and then they were pushing them out to their people."

ABC7 News spoke with Cache Bouren about his effort, and what 86C19 has been able to accomplish.

"When the shutdown came, it was pretty clear that you go from making X amount of dollars a week to zero, if you're a bartender or server," Bouren shared. "So one of my concerns was, how are these people gonna eat? There are no shifts out there, it's gonna be really difficult for them to be able to make some money and be able to depend on anything."

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He continued, "The idea was really, to try and leverage our relationships with brands and suppliers to give us a little support when folks working in the industry needed it most. And that would be when a shutdown comes out of nowhere and you still have rent to pay."

About Foisy having found inspiration in Bouren's approach, Bouren said, "It's very gracious of Carl. He definitely cuts his own path and has a really big influence. So, it's really neat that he's bringing it up, because I feel like we made a pretty small effort to be honest."

Bouren admitted, "That money won't pay the bills of an average restaurant or bar, but those little bits, and that kind of activism, it gives us an excuse to spend our energy, time and money towards something that benefits the community that we live and work in. As well as just creating an opportunity to support each other."

Foisy said his wish is that 86C19 would go farther than San Jose alone.

"Granted, we've done Campbell, we've done Los Gatos, we have nominations for restaurants as far as Sonoma and down in Carmel," he said. "We've delivered masks as far as London and as far as L.A. even. So, people are seeing it, but I wish that 86C19 went everywhere now."

Through the 86C19 Masks for Meals effort, Foisy said more than 400 masks have been purchased, more than $2,000 has been raised. Close to 40 local restaurants have been tapped to take part in receiving assistance and 130+ meals have been provided at no cost.

"It's more than the meals, it's the four restaurants that we pay $500 to. It's the 400-plus masks that are smart, reusable, not going to the landfill- that we put in our community," Foisy shared with ABC7 News. "It's starting the conversations about mask awareness. It's so much more than, 'Just give me some money, let me buy some meals.'"

To purchase an 86C19 mask, click here.

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