Things were looking bad for Robert’s Pizzeria, a Newark, New Jersey mainstay since 1985. After struggling to survive in the pandemic, owner Josh Martin announced on April 5 via Facebook that he was temporarily closing his pizza shop. But help quickly came from a most unexpected source: Audible, the app company known for its audio books and podcasts.
Audible has pumped a huge infusion of cash into Newark—to the tune of $1.5 million—to help feed the hungry and the elderly over the past month. Restaurants like Robert’s Pizzeria and nearly two dozen others make the meals in their kitchens, and Audible picks up the food and delivers it to residents of nursing homes and low-income housing around the city.
Audible announced April 10 that it was partnering with Jose Andres’ World Central Kitchen (WCK), a nonprofit that provides meals in the wake of natural disasters, and Chef Marcus Samuelsson to launch Newark Working Kitchens (NWK). It’s a free daily meal-delivery service specifically for Newark residents in need. “Our goal is simple: to keep our hometown community fed—and our fellow Newark business owners and their employees working,” the company said in a statement.
Audible’s $1.5 million commitment will provide 150,000 meals at $10 each, with the money paid directly to participating restaurants in the network. NWK also accepts donations and has gotten financial support from actor Michael B. Jordan (a Newark native) and Thrive Global, a behavioral change technology company founded by Arianna Huffington.
Audible also teamed up with Newark Venture Partners and Invest Newark to launch a mentorship program that helps restaurant owners and other small businesses navigate government funding programs related to the coronavirus.
Before establishing NWK, Audible had long been helping boost business for Newark restaurateurs. In 2017 the company created the Lunch Out Wednesday initiative, which subsidizes meals for hundreds of its employees each week through $15 voucher cards that can be redeemed at 22 participating local eateries. The company recently celebrated its 30,000th visit to a local restaurant as part of the program.