Thank You Chef Partners

In last week’s entry on Healthcare Heroes, we featured one of our long term Chef Partners, Chopt Creative Salad. We wanted to build on that this week to celebrate the many Chef Partners who have donated their time, their resources and their talent to countless Wellness in the Schools events over the years – from our annual Benefit on the rooftops of Manhattan’s finest buildings, to school kitchens and classrooms where their 10-year old audience is equally awed.

Our approach to COVID-19 has not wavered since the day public schools closed. We are helping to fill in the gaps with real food, by once again tapping into the resources of our Chef Partners. Our Chef Partners, most of whom serve local communities, are the heart and soul of local economies, from NYC to Miami. They make up the economic ecosystem that we support today so that tomorrow we are one step closer to a stronger food system — one that purchases from local farms, values scratch cooked over processed food, and fuels a preventative approach to good health.

Today, we thank the very same Chef Partners who have redefined the word ‘hospitality.’ Many have turned their commissaries and kitchens into emergency feeding operations, have pivoted their business models to address the needs of healthcare staff, and have continued to seek ways to do what they do best — feeding their communities, and keeping people nourished. 

Green Top Farms is one such example. Green Top Farms, a catering company that has donated produce to our Fall Harvest Dinner and has adopted a school in Harlem, shifted their business model to address the pandemic by turning their NYC commissary into an emergency feeding operation. They have been preparing and delivering 1000+ meals to the people on the front lines and to families in need, including those in our programs. Two Wellness in the Schools Chefs even joined the “staff” at Green Top Farms, since their work in school kitchens is not viable during this time. While WITS Chefs Laurielle and Kent are no longer able to feed children in NYC public schools, they are using their time and skills as chefs to volunteer at Green Top Farms, preparing nourishing meals for the most vulnerable of our NYC families. The lead chef at Green Top Farms, Anup Joshi, was actually one of our very first Chef Partners 15 years ago when he was a line cook at Tertulia. It’s been remarkable seeing how our partnerships continue to grow and evolve, in a way that none of us could have ever imagined. 

In addition to Green Top Farms and Chopt, here are some ways other rockstar Chef Partners have been addressing COVID-19: 

  • Between the Bread donated meal packs to school food staff and their families in Camden. Six schools received bags of food containing whole wheat fresh bread, potatoes, onion, citrus, granola bars, and assorted cheeses. Please see below for a message from Between the Bread’s Jon Eisen and Camden City School District’s Manager of School Nutrition Arlethia Brown.
  • Chef JJ and the FIELDTRIP team have fed more than 800 healthcare workers in hospitals throughout the community. They have also partnered with Harlem Grown to support youth and families in shelters throughout Harlem during this time. 
  • Chef Michael Schwartz of Michael’s Genuine Restaurant Group is feeding 150 families in Liberty City, Miami. We are grateful to our long-term partners, the Key Biscayne Community Foundation and José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen, for providing funding for this project. The effort is featured here.
  • Chef Clark Bowen of Fooq’s Miami is donating meals to feed families in Liberty City.
  • SOUND Tea is delivering their sparkling beverages to hospitals.
  • The Little Beet’s #InMyScrubs initiative is keeping hospital workers well-fed.  
  • Gotham Greens is donating fresh produce to food banks and community partners.
  • Soom Foods has donated their tahini to our restaurant partners and schools.
  • Misfits Market is donating fruit and vegetables to families in our partner school in Camden, NJ.
  • Red Rabbit is preparing meals for senior citizens in NYCHA Housing, Settlement Houses, etc.

The list above just barely skims the surface, and there are many others who have gone unmentioned. We know that so many chefs and restaurants, whether they are a part of the WITS family or not, are doing what they can to take care of their staff, their patrons, and also those closely affected by the pandemic. We encourage our readers to show restaurants support during this time by ordering gift cards, purchasing meals to go towards healthcare providers, or donating towards funds such as the one set up by the James Beard Foundation. Check to see if your favorite local restaurant has set up a GoFundMe page to support their furloughed staff. While we eagerly await the day that we can gather and share a meal inside the restaurants themselves, we will do what we can to support them from six feet (and more) apart.