NYC Wellness in the Schools program and chefs work together to feed victims of Hurricane Sandy
On Veteran's Day chefs and team members from Wellness in the Schools (WITS), a NYC-based nonprofit focused on fighting childhood obesity through healthy food and fitness programming in public schools, partnered with Chefs Move to Schools chef volunteers to create an early Thanksgiving for hundreds of Staten Island residents affected by Hurricane Sandy.
WITS Executive Chef Bill Telepan reached out to their large volunteer chef network, created from connecting chefs to schools for many years, and to put together a group of chefs and volunteers to help feed Staten Island residents. Together WITS, a team of chefs and restaurant partners developed a simple menu that was both delicious and nutritious: homemade chili with grass-fed beef, white bean soup, freshly baked bread, and sous vide meals of chicken, beef and butternut squash.
WITS chefs worked with various organizations to feed the Sandy victims. Volunteers met the Sunday before Veteran's Day at Chop't Creative Salad Co.'s test kitchen in Long Island City to prepare and cook meals for an estimated 1,000 Staten Islanders. WITS and area organizations provided the raw ingredients for the meals and with the help of WITS cooks and chef volunteers the food was sliced, diced and packed for Monday's effort. With additional donations of fresh water and serving, dining, and cleaning materials, the WITS team and chef volunteers headed out in force to the Midland Beach community.
Serving stations were lined with steaming, homemade dishes and volunteers vowed to stay until every last bite was given out. Thanks to the donation of dining tables and chairs, residents were able enjoy a hot meal together on site as well as take food to go.
"I worked alongside these three amazing women from Staten Island," said WITS intern Ellie Berens. "They were unaffected by the storm, but felt the call to action and put together a really amazing grassroots effort to help out. Together with them, we packed up hundreds of meals to go and they went door to door bringing the hot meals to families in need." Volunteers from FEMA and the Red Cross were also able to pick up meals from the WITS effort to provide to their service areas.
Hurricane Sandy tested the resolve of many New Yorkers, cutting out power, destroying homes and businesses, and in some cases causing loss of life. Not to be defeated, however, the city has shown true resolve by rallying together to help those in need.
WITS Executive Director Nancy Easton commented: “I was touched by the generosity of so many who came out to help us with this effort. Everyone we asked to help, from food to labor, to supplies, gave 110% of themselves. It was a very moving and inspiring effort. We are fortunate to be able to help others.”
WITS chefs and chefs across the nation volunteer year-round in schools helping in the fight against childhood obesity and have proven willing to extend their skills, time, and their care to the broader community when called upon.
"Our WITS chef partners, as part of the Chefs Move to Schools initiative, have been working in schools for years and are used to prepping for 700-1000 kids each day,” said Chef Bill Telepan. “This was a way to use our experience in schools and our skill set to help others.”
WITS would like to thank the following organizations: Bill Telepan, Rocco DiSpirito, Tadashi Ono, Gerard Bertholon, Chop't Creative Salad Company Co., Seamus Mullen, and Amy's Bread, Party Rentals LTD, American Grassfed Beef, Mountain Valley Spring Water and Cuisine Solutions for donating supplies, time, space and volunteers. We would also like to thank Offices of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and Staten Island Council Member James Oddo for helping us to make this effort a success.