NY nonprofit combats meals insecurity, focuses on households ineligible for unemployment

Photo courtesy of Kim Calichio/The Connected Chef

A nonprofit situated in Queens, New York, is tackling the problem of meals insecurity in america head-on. 


Earlier than the coronavirus pandemic hit, The Linked Chef centered on training, cooking and gardening lessons. The group’s priorities modified to combating meals insecurity when COVID-19 started to unfold throughout New York Metropolis, director and co-founder Kim Calichio defined. Calichio and her husband are each restaurant cooks and have been within the meals service trade for a really very long time.

“We knew that particularly households had been going to be now out of labor, but additionally not qualify for unemployment advantages or another ample authorities assist,” Calichio informed Fox Information. “We actually noticed at face worth that there have been some critical inequities and points inside each meals distribution and meals entry, not simply in Queens, however throughout the nation.”

The couple determined to launch the Lifeline Grocery Initiative, which affords free grocery packages to households in want. 

The Linked Chef’s efforts come as the meals insecurity price in america is on the rise. In 2019, the meals insecurity price had dropped to 35.2 million folks, in line with the United States Division of Agriculture, the bottom level for the reason that Nineties. Of that, 10.7 million had been kids. 

Now, Feeding America estimates that 42 million folks (1 in 8), together with 13 million kids (1 in 6), could expertise meals insecurity in 2021 on account of COVID-19. The group predicts that about 21.3% of Black People, or 1 in 5, could expertise meals insecurity in 2021, in comparison with 11% of White people, or 1 in 9. 


Each week, The Linked Chef orders 1000’s of kilos of contemporary meals from restaurant wholesalers and then repackages and distributes the meals to households who’re out of labor however unable to gather unemployment.

In accordance with Calichio, the neighborhood response to this system has been “overwhelming.”

“We created a registration kind and put that out to 4 people who we knew and, inside every week’s time, we had over 1,000 folks register for free groceries on the top of the pandemic final 12 months,” Calichio stated. “Our first week of grocery deliveries we delivered 25 groceries, however then the following week we did 100 households after which 200. Inside a month’s time, we had been delivering over 500 groceries weekly.”

Presently, The Linked Chef’s grocery supply program serves 700 households per week.


Calichio stated that the most important problem the nonprofit has encountered has been creating a brand new financial mannequin that “hasn’t existed on a bigger scale.” The Linked Chef can also be trying to change the public’s notion of nonprofits by turning into a supply for jobs. 

“The best way that [the nonprofit] mannequin is about up is there is a handful of people who find themselves on workers after which it is very a lot a volunteer-driven,” Calichio stated. “And what we’re working to do is ensure that we’re not solely based mostly on volunteers and we’re actually hiring and creating jobs from inside the communities that we’re serving as nicely, too. And that is each on a decision-making degree, inside the group, in our volunteer crew and our operations crew throughout the board.”

The Linked Chef at present has 11 paid workers and greater than 50 volunteers. 

Photo courtesy of Kim Calichio/The Connected Chef

Photograph courtesy of Kim Calichio/The Linked Chef

Following the success of the grocery packages, The Linked Chef has launched a sliding scale program that enables households who’re more comfortable to decide in for groceries at completely different value factors, ranging between $25 to $45.   

“No matter what you pay, you get the identical precise meals and the identical precise high quality as someone who paying a distinct value or is just not paying something,” Calichio stated. “So by creating this kind of mannequin, we’re permitting people who haven’t got cash to pay for his or her groceries to have the ability to get actually good contemporary substances which can be coming from native farms. However when you have the cash to pay $35 then nice, you try this and then you definitely get to assist subsidize this work and this new method of making entry for everyone inside our neighborhood.”


Whereas Calichio acknowledges that The Linked Chef has the potential to at some point increase nationwide, she stated the aim for now could be to create a mannequin that is sustainable.

“Once we’re speaking about scaling, the instant response that always folks go to is, ‘Oh, it is a great point, everyone deserves groceries, we must always make this out there throughout the nation.’ And I feel that is true,” Calichio stated. “However I feel the best way that that is executed is essential. And for us, meaning creating this mannequin that is sustainable, that may be then replicated and given to communities throughout New York and throughout another state within the nation, in order that we will show that this new method of doing issues is feasible and permits folks to belief and have religion to have the ability to come away from this previous mannequin of road charity and conventional nonprofit to begin working differently.”

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