Natalie Guo’s first job was at an immigrant-owned restaurant where most of the kitchen staff was undocumented. In fact, she was raised by the immigrant community. Through her parents, neighbors, and friends, she saw first-hand how economic fragility and opportunity can be closely interwoven in the immigrant experience. In March 2020, Natalie was sent home from her surgical rotation as her teaching hospital prepared for the pandemic. On her walk home, she passed by restaurant after restaurant closing as she learned of the millions of restaurant workers being laid off around the country. As her hospital mentors and colleagues headed into unrelenting shifts on the frontline, food industry workers, some of the most economically vulnerable individuals in our country, were desperate for a living wage.
The irony struck her. Within a week, Natalie launched Off Their Plate, an initiative dedicated to feeding hospital workers on the frontlines of the pandemic while providing a livelihood for restaurant workers. These efforts have evolved into a national community resiliency effort backing kitchens, restaurants and food trucks led by women of color to tackle hunger right in their community with wholesome, affirming meals. To date, they’ve served over 830,000 meals, raised over $8.5 million, and helped over 170 minority-led food businesses keep staff on payroll and doors open.
Being among the L’Oréal Paris Women of Worth is about honoring the transformative act of service. We have each been changed by our cause. Off Their Plate has taught me the affirming power of taking action, the resiliency of minority-led businesses, and that hunger is about more than calories. Let the work change you for the better.