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These NYC food organizations are feeding the city's protestors

New Yorkers—many of whom are cash-strapped—are nevertheless using their own funds to help feed the Black Lives Matter movement.

Emma Orlow
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Emma Orlow
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Throughout the recent wave of protests since the start of May, crowds of New Yorkers continue to gather calling to end police brutality against the Black community and white supremacy at large. These emergency reckonings with our city—long overdue—have been coupled by another crisis that the first wave of Black Lives Matter protests in 2013 had not yet faced: the coronavirus. With historic levels of unemployment plaguing New York City due to the virus, we have especially admired the generosity of spirit that many chefs are extending, despite already losing sources of income and being cash-strapped. Both professional chefs and regular New Yorkers interested in the powers of cooking are setting up booths at protests to make sure people are able to stay nourished for free. 

The People's Bodega is a "(mobile) free store supplying the revolution" rooted in Astoria Mutual Aid. NourishNYC, founded by Tania Maree Giordani, has a hot meal delivery sign-up on its website to aid people at #OccupyCityHall. According to the NourishNYC website, Giordani, 22, launched the organization with the hope of keeping protestors “safe, fed and free.” At the Black Trans Lives Matter protest, Le Đặc Biệt, a Vietnamese food pop-up passed out free shrimp skewers in front of the Brooklyn Museum. Rasheeda McCallum, a chef and nutritionist, and Kayla Davis, a pastry chef and event coordinator—they met while attending a culinary arts program—have launched Black Chef Movement, their own culinary collective. These groups are some of many showing up with free offerings for protestors. Others, who are not physically launching pop-ups at the protests are showing solidarity through food-based initiatives such as Bakers Against Racism, a movement in which individual bakers launch local bake sales to raise funds for groups such as The Okra Project, devoted to nourishing the Black trans community. 

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For McCallum, she began working as a food and nutrition manager at a hospital after she graduated from school. And, according to her, during that time, she “met with numerous patients—many of them Black—who suffered from illnesses that result from poor diet. These people wanted to change their eating habits, but didn’t know how.” It inspired her to launch her own affordable meal delivery service called Ms Goodies’ Meal Prep. Now with much of that work on pause due to COVID-19, she’s also placing her efforts on the protests. 

Nourishing meals are central to what many of these groups are after. Earlier this week, Eater spoke with Lucy Saintcyr about how Black organizers fed the Occupy City Hall protests with restaurant and homemade meals. Saintcyr (who has worked as a general manager, sommelier and wine server at top NYC restaurants and is the founder of the Saint Supper Collective) told the publication that "not having to worry about where their food is coming from means people can focus on other issues." 

Black Chef Movement shares with Time Out New York that they place “emphasis on individually portioned, nutrient-rich meals and snacks that people can grab and go while protesting, such as wraps, muffins, and fresh fruit parfaits.” They make sure to offer plant-based options, but encourage chefs who are interested in getting involved to prepare “whatever they think people will enjoy!” 

“In the midst of the country’s renewed unrest over the unjust killing of Black and brown people, we felt compelled to show up with our community. At the same time, many of our colleagues had extra time on their hands as restaurants operated at reduced capacity due to COVID-19. We had the idea to harness the skills and energy of Black chefs in Brooklyn to fuel the fight against injustice in our communities. Since we founded Black Chef Movement, our team has grown to include over 20 Black, brown, and ally chefs and dozens of volunteers working together to nourish the movement for social justice and equity,” shares the team. You can Venmo @BlackChefMovement. 

Beyond the financial commitments these chefs are making, some are also putting their own health on the line. NourishNYC’s site says that Giordani is immunocompromised, but “as she witnessed her community risk everything to demand justice for Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Aubrey, and George Floyd, putting her life on the line felt like the right thing to do. Less than a day after filing for unemployment, she spent her last few dollars on supplies for protestors. While on the front lines in Brooklyn providing aid to injured activists, Giordani was maced by the NYPD. The police brutalized one of her friends and arrested another. It was an experience Giordani would never forget.” Time Out New York did not hear back from the team at the time of publication, but they, too, are looking for folks to get involved via food or monetary donations, which you can learn more about via their website. 

With so many protests popping up throughout the city on a daily basis, one might wonder how one picks where to set-up. According to the Black Chef Movement team, “Currently, we work directly with organizers of events who reach out, many via Instagram, to see if Black Chef Movement is able to have a presence, and we are hoping to expand our coverage to more protests across the five boroughs. We prioritize supporting events with Black leadership and being onsite at events where the need is highest for food and additional resources.” 

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