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Friday, May 7, 2021

‘Restaurant’ Bites: Fighting Hunger in New York

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In October 2019, 1.5 million New Yorkers will go hungry or to bed hungry each night because they lack the resources to eat the healthy food they need. Though state and federal officials are tasked with devising and funding a solution, everyday citizens, business owners and organizations have devised their own plans to fight hunger. Here are the stories behind the shelves:

FEED NYC – founders Judith H. Lewis and Lisa Lanman. Photo: Brian Kowalewski

Judith H. Lewis was a young mother when she and Lisa Lanman decided to cook dinner for other parents whose children could not get nutritious meals on the weekends. Within six months, they had a business. “We’re really just a mom and a mom-and-pop,” Lewis says. “We decided we wanted to donate what we wanted to buy — we’re not wealthy, we’re just who we are.” Today, Lewis and Lanman run City Harvest, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting hunger by providing schools and community food pantries with donations and ingredients from the hospitality industry.

Chef Curtis Stone turns the idea of the proper serving into a value: His Appetite for Change program pairs “thousands of volunteers and diners” with hunger-relief organizations each month, culminating in thousands of meals distributed. During Stone’s visit to New York this year, he admitted that the best meal in the world is found when volunteers meet one another during lunch service. “It’s a higher learning experience, and it fosters kindness and solidarity,” he says. In honor of the event, Appetite for Change created Tastelessly Delicious, a mission-driven dessert developed by Hamptons native chef Melissa Kelly. Kelly’s company, Zanheels, is part of the company that provides the hundreds of corporate execs who typically attend Appetite for Change events with the meals.

Diana Slappay (C), Rose Palmieri (L) and Maren Linette (R) at the homeless shelter operated by Moishe Biale (L), Jacqueline Varon (C), Taz Vargas (L) and Sasha Steinhardt at the First Christian Church in Harlem. Photo: de Fevere and Marzia Fleuretix

A trip to the grocery store was once a lighthearted date, but now Diana Slappay and Rose Palmieri can see the impact that shopping for food is having on their respective coworkers. As volunteers at Bronx-based Grand Concourse Food Pantry, the women work alongside a team of professionals at the store that serves as the pantry’s tip pool. Together, they set and enforce policy for the store, which has something of a Greek flavor: Employees of charities are welcome to serve alongside the store’s employees.

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