Food is more than what’s on the plate. This is Equal Portions, a series by editor-at-large Shane Mitchell, investigating bigger issues and activism in the food world, and how a few good eggs are working to make it better for everyone.
“It’s like cooking for your grandparents and their friends,” says Helen Nguyen of Saigon Social. The Vietnamese chef is spending her Thanksgiving preparing 300 meals for food insecure New Yorkers through Heart of Dinner and Feed Forward’s More Than a Meal delivery programs. She’s also serving another 500 culturally friendly meals for a diverse population of seniors and young families in low-income housing two blocks away from her restaurant on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. “There’ll be roasted chicken marinated in five spice and lemongrass, mashed potatoes, baked sweet potatoes and Korean yams. We’re also braising salmon in tomato sauce to go with steamed Napa cabbage over rice.”
Nguyen is not alone. Both professional chefs and home cooks are working overtime this holiday to sustain hungry neighbors. “One thing that brings everyone together is food,” says chef Benjamin Tyson, founder of Patchwork Nashville, who stepped away from fine dining to focus on cooking homey, nourishing meals for the underserved in Tennessee. This week, his kitchen crew of three (and loyal volunteers) will share 1,750 regular meals, as well as host two complete Thanksgiving dinners at a homeless encampment within the city limits. “We’ve found not everyone loves turkey, but figured roast chicken with cornbread-sausage stuffing is just as nice,” he says. “We’ll be making a fruit cobbler and cookies, too.”
On the day Americans traditionally celebrate abundance with friends and family, so many lack both; a hot turkey dinner, or any hot meal at all, too often represents an elusive comfort. The following local initiatives strive to support their communities every day and, during the holiday that centers on giving thanks, are putting dignified food on as many tables as possible—through pie drives, turkey donations, meal kits, and home deliveries. Please consider sharing your bounty with one or more listed here. And since Giving Tuesday is right around the corner, we’ve included several food drives taking place then as well.
Based in Charleston, South Carolina, this non-profit promotes healthy eating as part of recovery from surgery and other life-impacting illnesses; plant-based meals are prepared by teen chefs and their kitchen mentors.
A collaborative of chefs and students that grows produce and cooks free meals for their Philadelphia community is hosting a pie drive with drop-offs at community fridges this week. Bake two, share one.
In collaboration with West Texas pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters, this food bank provides weekly meal assistance and deliveries to El Paso residents.
This no-cost Seattle grocery store provides fresh produce, grocery staples, and a variety of healthy food options to those in need.
This non-profit that focuses on resettling refugees in Southern California also organizes regular supper club fundraisers.
Activist and cookbook author Grace Young is partnering with Welcome to Chinatown’s Let’s Eat Fund to support legacy neighborhood restaurants and distribute meals to members of the community.
Every year, the Five-O chapter of Meals on Wheels delivers nutritious holiday dinners to Hawaiian island kūpuna (elders).
Founded in 1890, this charitable organization accepts local turkey and pie donations for the holidays, but also has an ongoing meal service for residents of Upstate New York’s Mohawk Valley region.
A free Thanksgiving dinner delivery for residents of the Five Points District in Northeast Denver has the donation slogan: “No One Should Be Hungry, Period.”