The Candied Yam wins $25K through Discover Eat It Forward program

Owned by Jessica Ann Tyson, The Candied Yam serves soul food “cooked with love just like grandma used to make.” Courtesy Jessica Ann Tyson

A Southern food restaurant in Grand Rapids was randomly selected as the winner of $25,000 through a program created to support Black-owned restaurants during COVID-19.

The Candied Yam said last week that it was the recipient of $25,000 from the Discover Eat It Forward program.

Discover in July announced that in an effort to support the restaurant industry as it rebounds from the impact of COVID-19, it would be giving a total of $5 million to Black-owned restaurants. From now through Oct. 31, consumers can nominate their favorite Black-owned restaurant, and 200 nominees will be randomly selected to receive $25,000.

The Candied Yam was one of the recent winners, Discover confirmed to the Business Journal on Friday.

Jessica Ann Tyson Courtesy Jessica Ann Tyson

Owned by Jessica Ann Tyson, The Candied Yam serves soul food “cooked with love just like grandma used to make.”

Its scratch-made dishes include crispy, seasoned fried chicken, catfish, creamy mac and cheese, collard greens, black-eyed peas, peach cobbler and sweet potato muffins.

Tyson said she has managed to keep her doors open throughout the pandemic for the sake of her staff, many of whom are second-chance workers, to ensure they were able to continue taking care of their families.

“Even after the struggle of reducing down to takeout per (the) governor’s mandates, (I) still found ways to give back to the community during the pandemic with (my) #RandomYamsofKindness initiative,” Tyson said.

Since March, Tyson and her team have fed first responders and frontline workers, hosted the National Guard and veterans, and donated meals for quarantined individuals, as well as families who have been impacted by COVID-19.

With “Donna” — Tyson’s Kia delivery van — The Candied Yam has delivered food to low-income, high-risk community members such as senior citizens, cancer patients and those suffering from mental health issues.

The restaurant also donated meals to 150 Black Lives Matter artists who beautified downtown Grand Rapids after protests and riots in late May/early June.

During Mental Health Awareness Month in May, Tyson partnered with the nonprofit Community of Hearts to donate meals and mental health crisis resource guides to customers.

Having a 2020 high school graduate of her own, Tyson understood the disappointment this year’s seniors felt. The Candied Yam held a contest for high school seniors that included paid ads and billboard space and catered graduation dinner for families at no cost in June to celebrate them.

The Candied Yam’s local customer base nominated the restaurant for this cash award.

With the winnings, Tyson plans to pay for employee meals out, as well as provide them with gifts and cash bonuses. Her other plans for the $25,000 will include paying bills, reinvesting in the establishment via kitchen and van repairs, purchasing new equipment and hosting a giveback #RandomYamsofKindness event to thank customers.

The Candied Yam is located at 2305 44th St. SE in the Breton Meadows Plaza in Grand Rapids.

The restaurant is open six days a week for takeout, limited dine-in, catering and third-party delivery.

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