In the midst of the global pandemic and panic triggered by COVID-19, one New Jersey business owner is stepping up to help meet her community’s needs.
Just a day after Gov. Phil Murphy closed all schools in The Garden State, restaurateur and real estate developer Adenah Bayoh announced that she will serve free meals to children, parents, and disadvantaged adults from the three IHOP restaurants that she owns. Starting Thursday, anyone in need can pick up take-out breakfast and lunch on weekdays at the pancake houses in Paterson, Newark, and Irvington. Bayoh, a former refugee-turned-American success story, said she can relate to food-challenged students who depend on school meals for nutrition.
“The economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the most vulnerable people in our society,” said Bayoh in a statement. “I grew up in communities where I learned that nothing is more important than taking care of each other. No child should go without a meal because schools are closed. No adult should be hungry while navigating the risks of a global pandemic.”
According to the statement, families in need can pick up pancakes for breakfast from 7 – 10 a.m. and sandwiches for lunch between 12 – 2 p.m. until schools reopen. While intended to provide for students who have lost access to school meals, adults in need can also take advantage of the initiative during the crisis.
“It is my pleasure and privilege to serve the communities that have been so integral to the success of my businesses,” said Bayoh, the founder of Adenah Bayoh and Cos.
Bayoh is also working with Irvington Councilwoman Jamillah Z. Beasley to deliver free meals to seniors in Irvington. In addition, staff at her four Cornbread restaurants throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania will be paid whether they work or not even though the eateries will be on limited operations for the next two weeks. Plus, she has tasked her general managers to accommodate employees with shift adjustments if they have childcare conflicts while school is out.
“Unprecedented times require unprecedented solutions,” added Bayoh. “This is a moment for businesses to step up and give back to the communities that support us every day. As business owners, we must invest in the safety and security of the places we call home, and ensure that all of our people survive this crisis.”
Bayoh escaped the Liberian Civil War at the age of 13 and immigrated to Newark where she lived in public housing. She opened her first restaurant a little more than a decade ago at the age of 29. In addition to being the parent corporation of an IHOP franchise and the Cornbread restaurants, Adenah Bayoh and Cos. owns a real estate development portfolio with over $250 million in urban redevelopment projects, according to her website.
“When I began my journey as a restaurateur, I was turned down by seven banks before I was able to secure the financing I needed to purchase my first restaurant,” she said last year when she announced that her soul food restaurant was expanding into three Walmart stores. “Now, 13 years later, my own signature soul food restaurant is expanding outside of New Jersey with the support of the largest retailer in the country. This is proof that drive, passion, and hard work can help you realize your most ambitious dreams.”