Warm those icy hearts, New York: ‘Tis the season to feel warm, fuzzy, and a bit more charitable than usual, and perhaps to think about putting a little monetary support behind a cause you really care about. If you’re reading this blog, we’re going to guess food is important to you — and if you’re someone who spends most of your waking moments thinking about your next bite, perhaps you’d like to give a gift to a nonprofit organization that works in that realm. We’ve compiled a list of 10 organizations doing work related to food in our community. Some fight hunger or childhood obesity, others build community gardens, and one is trying to establish a museum dedicated to food. Pick the one that makes your own heart swell, and give a little back in the name of the holidays.
This homegrown project from Booker & Dax’s Dave Arnold says its mission is to “change the way people think about food and inspire day-to-day curiosity about what we eat and why,” and it aims to accomplish that via an interactive, edible museum devoted to the subject of food and drink. “Food has come front and center not just in culture but also in politics and in so many other ways,” executive director Peter Kim told us in an interview last year. “In our view, the museum is important in educating people about food because food is inherently personal. We encourage self-directed exploration of food, and a museum is an ideal way to do that.” The organization has spent the last year or so organizing pop-up exhibitions, but ultimately, it aims to open a brick-and-mortar site here in NYC. Your donation helps it continue to move the ball forward.
Wellness in the Schools (WITS)
This New York City-based organization works with kids to build a lifetime of healthy habits around food, fitness, and the environment. WITS offers a hands-on educational approach; in an interview earlier this year, co-founder Nancy Easton listed offerings like Cooks for Kids, a program that places culinary school graduates or the equivalent in school cafeterias, where they write menus around scratch-cooked meals and salad bars and, four times a year, offer a seasonal cooking class. Eighty percent of WITS schools also have a garden. “Any exposure that our city kids can get to where their food comes from, the end result is that they eat healthier food,” Easton told us. The third component of the program, Coaches for Kids, gets students involved in fitness days in the recess yard. WITS’s website lists a number of ways you can contribute, including supplying a water jet, donating a salad bar, or sponsoring a school. You can also make a general donation to keep the organization growing.
Restaurants create an impressive amount of food waste, all perfectly good ingredients or composed dishes that, for whatever reason, are no longer OK to wind up on a diner’s table. City Harvest “rescues” that food, which would otherwise be thrown away, and distributes it to New York City’s impoverished population, thereby alleviating two problems in one sweep. The organization serves more than 500 programs, most of which are local food pantries. Restaurants can donate food to the cause, and individuals can make monetary contributions, which help City Harvest pay for the cost to retrieve food and distribute it. City Harvest claims 93 cents of every donated dollar goes directly to fighting hunger.
No Kid Hungry
Dozens of New York City industry heavyweights back this national cause; this nonprofit works to end childhood hunger via school breakfasts and summer meals, and it has many partners right here in NYC. Come April, the organization hosts a taste-around blowout party aimed at raising money to end childhood hunger. But you don’t have to wait for the party to help — the group says $46 connects one child to a year of meals, which is a bite-sized amount you can give any time. No Kid Hungry has also partnered with Williams-Sonoma this holiday season: Purchase the Orange Chef cutting board, and the company will donate proceeds to the cause.
Love the greenmarkets? Or your neighborhood’s community garden? Thank GrowNYC, the organization that’s been in charge of such endeavors since it was born as an environmental policy group in the 1970s. Today, it runs more than 50 farmers’ markets and 70 community gardens around the city, operates farmer training programs, teaches nutrition in local schools, and works with the community on recycling. Your donation supports urban farming and the future of food.
New York City Coalition Against Hunger (NYCCAH)
“We think more than a million of our neighbors shouldn’t have to depend on charities for adequate food,” NYCCAH executive director Joel Berg told us in an interview last year. “We should have an adequate safety net in place to end hunger in New York City. This is the richest country in the world.” NYCCAH fights for policy change to strengthen that safety net, even as it continues community outreach to alleviate hunger in all of the boroughs. The organization administers and educates communities about SNAP benefits (which help families purchase more food), offers a farm-fresh CSA project that brings fresh seasonal produce to low-income neighborhoods, manages Americorps service volunteers to work to end hunger on the ground, and advocates on behalf of the community it serves to, as Berg puts it, “propose innovative and realistic solutions to the problem.” (Disclosure: I sit on the board of this organization.)
Slow Food NYC
The New York City branch of this international organization follows the principles of its sibling chapters: It combats the impact of fast food by working “to create a food system based on the principles of high quality and taste, environmental sustainability, and social justice — in essence, a food system that is good, clean and fair,” per its mission statement. It supports Urban Harvest, a hands-on educational program for kids, plus seminars and programs for adults. It’s also behind the Snail of Approval, a designation given to businesses that adhere to Slow Food’s tenets.
Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture
It’s more or less a rite of culinary passage to visit the Stone Barns Center and then have a meal at Dan Barber’s Blue Hill Stone Barns, and if you’ve toured the grounds, you already know about the incredible work the place is doing. This agricultural center is working to change our entire food system so that it’s healthier and more sustainable — it experiments with farming methods, trains farmers, provides education to young eaters, and supplies Barber’s restaurant, which turns out meditations on what a sustainable American cuisine could look like. Even $20 helps the farm launch new experiments. No matter what you give, make a point to go see this place in action — it’ll change what you think you know about farming and our food system.
Food Bank for New York City
Food Bank for New York City’s main thrust is providing free meals for New Yorkers living in poverty, and it estimates that 1.4 million of our neighbors rely on food banks and pantries for some of their meals. Food Bank works with more than 1,000 partners, and it provides more than 63 million meals annually. The organization says every dollar donated buys five meals for hungry New Yorkers, but you’re also welcome to donate food or your time, serving meals at one of the group’s distribution sites. Choose the latter, and you can use the org’s database to find a site close to you.
92nd Street Y
If you follow our biweekly events posts, you might notice that a number of educational food events happen at the 92nd Street Y. The mission of this community center, per its website, is to be a place “where people all over the world connect through culture, arts, entertainment, and conversation,” and it’s been just that for more than 140 years. While ticketed programs here are seldom free, each event — and the center itself — is made possible because of donations. This is your chance to help back a place that feeds our culinary intellect.