Last call for support

TFS's well of grant funds is going dry

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Much as I hate to use a cliché: Is this bottle half empty or half full?

As you may recall, I unveiled the bourbon barometer back in June, when it seemed likely that The Food Section wouldn’t acquire enough paid subscribers to make it once its Substack Local funding ran out. The newsletter then had 472 paying readers, putting it 208 subscriptions short of its sustainability target.

I’m exceptionally grateful to readers who’ve helped drink down that deficit. As of today, The Food Section has 555 paid subscribers.

With the newsletter’s Substack Local grant set to expire on September 15, it’s revenue from those readers which will allow The Food Section to keep producing advertising-free food journalism about the American South.

And for those who are new to The Food Section, it’s worth reiterating what kind of food journalism I mean. I tend to use the modifiers “independent,” “original,” and “rigorous,” when describing it, but with fewer than three weeks left on the Substack dole, it’s worth getting specific here. The Food Section’s journalism has:

This is so important and so powerful, and I have not seen it anywhere else. I am so proud to be a subscriber and so grateful for your work. Plenty of places to find “What’s Hot/What’s Not” and so-called “Best Of” and coverage of The Usual (Culinary) Suspects. Not so many to find and dig into and highlight this absolutely essential and crucial food story.

  • Swayed the national culinary conversation. Smithsonian Magazine reprinted The Food Section’s reporting about Southern restaurants mentioned in The Guild Guide, a 1960s travel guide for gay men; the Atlanta Journal Constitution featured The Food Section’s reporting on COVID mortality among restaurant workers, and the New York Times picked up the story of Aunt Fanny’s Cabin after The Food Section investigated it.

  • Connected readers to people and places they might not have encountered. The Food Section has shared stories from hundreds of cities and towns, including Emporia, Virginia, home to a taco stand located minutes from Interstate 95, the subject of the newsletter’s first big eating guide.

    Twitter avatar for @DennisWhittle
    Dennis Whittle @DennisWhittle
    @mashenka @hannaraskin Taqueria Victoria in Emporia VA was very good and a place you would not find in a million years otherwise.

None of the above would be possible without subscribers’ support. That’s why it’s so exciting that paid subscriptions have shot up by more than 17 percent since the start of the “drain the bottle” campaign. To those of you who purchased gift subscriptions or told a friend about The Food Section, thank you.

Anyhow, that’s the half-full part. But the half-empty view is of the 125 subscriptions left to sell.

I’m determined to keep The Food Section going with the current subscriber count. But I set 680 paid subscriptions as a goal because it would allow me to earn $45,600 a year and spend $1,235 a month on reporting. Obviously, I can cut back on my salary and expenses, but don’t want the reader experience to suffer because of the latter.

In other words, I’d love to take a few more nips out of this bottle before September 15. If you can afford to spend $9 a month (which, relatedly, is less than a bourbon swig at most bars), I hope you’ll consider signing on today as a paid subscriber.

While I’m actively seeking sponsorship to cover the costs of freelance contributions to The Food Section, this newsletter’s everyday work is wholly dependent on reader revenue. But to be clear, I don’t think you should subscribe just to balance my books: I hope you’ll subscribe because you’re curious about Southern food, and want to learn something new about it every Monday and Wednesday at 8 a.m.

Bottoms up!

Do you know someone who ought to be among the paid subscribers supporting The Food Section’s independent journalism?




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