Thursday, April 16, 2020
Anonymous East Village restaurant owners distribute meals to neighbors in need
Text and photos by Stacie Joy
“Do we have a plan?” I ask, as I walk in to the restaurant. “Not really,” I am told, “Let’s wing it.” I nod.
I’m at a local restaurant with the family who owns it and wishes to stay anonymous. The family has prepared home-cooked meals for East Village homeless folks and we’re about to set out to feed hot meals to people on the street who may need them.
I’m curious how it will work. I grab my camera as the family loads up their vehicle, puts on masks and gloves (and smiles), and head out.
We stop at several locations around the neighborhood and are successful in getting supplies to people. The pads and tampons are well received especially. I’m touched that they are included in the supply packets offered.
After all the meals and supplies are distributed, I talk with the volunteers about their experience and reasoning behind this undertaking.
What prompted the idea to prepare these meals to feed those most vulnerable in the neighborhood?
My husband and I are local restaurant owners, and although we’ve been doing business in the neighborhood for decades, we have never had so many people come into the restaurant asking for food.
We immediately felt the shift in the air as the talk of shutting down the city seemed inevitable. They deemed us an essential business, but most of the neighborhood around us (temporarily) closed and the streets vacated as people hunkered down to begin their shelter-in-place.
The very first day a woman in need came in crying, unable to get food or medicine for herself or her daughter. She kept repeating over and over and over “...this is terrible, this is terrible, this is terrible.” And the need among those living on the street has only escalated from there. People are scared and confused — and hungry. And, she’s right — it’s terrible.
How did you decide what to make and how best to package it?
We wanted to make a home-cooked meal that was comforting, so we decided on a simple boxed lunch with chicken, rice, roasted carrots, corn muffin and a chocolate brownie. The box made for an easy handoff with minimal contact. And, we threw in a new pair of socks...because clean socks make everybody feel better.
Have you ever done anything like this before?
No, not exactly like this. Over the years whenever we have extra food from catering or fundraisers, we’d donate it to the Catholic Worker on First Street.
What was the experience like? What were some of the reactions you received and how did it affect you?
It felt like a drop in the ocean. I think most were surprised that we were offering a full meal. The mention of chicken and roasted carrots seemed to cause a lot of excitement. Everyone was very grateful. I almost felt ashamed that such a simple gesture could spark such good cheer. It was incredibly humbling.
Do you have any suggestions for others interested in doing something similar?
I really don’t have specific suggestions. Just remember, a small gesture of kindness can go a long way. We just have to follow our hearts and be vigilant in our efforts to help the most vulnerable people in our community. And long term? Please vote. Let’s do better going forward.