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Feeding NYC: Music and Food for the Soul

Updated: Dec 8, 2023

For our December concerts, we’re partnering with EVLoves NYC, an East Village-based food pantry and kitchen that works tirelessly to alleviate food insecurity in New York City. PROTESTRA Organizer Maya Kile recently visited EVLoves NYC to get a firsthand look at this amazing organization.

Volunteers working in an assembly line at EVLovesNYC food kitchen

The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food security as “access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. Sadly, food insecurity remains a major issue in New York City. According to the NYC Mayor’s Office of Food Policy’s 2022 Food Metrics Annual Report, an estimated 1.2 million (14.6%) New York City residents are food insecure. Clearly, the lingering effects of the global pandemic coupled with inflation and rising prices for basic necessities have turned food insecurity into a major social issue. But although the obstacles continue to arise, New York City is fighting back in part to EVLoves NYC. Recently, I had the great pleasure of visiting EV Loves NYC’s kitchen. I was shown around by Tyler Hefferon, a PROTESTRA board member and a founding member of EVLoves NYC.

EVLoves NYC is a volunteer-run 501(c)(3) nonprofit that serves food-insecure populations in New York City. They are located in the heart of Manhattan’s East Village at the 6th Street Community Center, and food distributions take place every Sunday. The organization has humble beginnings, starting as just a group of friends cooking and sharing meals with neighbors during the first weeks of the pandemic lockdown. In the past three years, EVLoves NYC has grown to partner with over 75 organizations (churches, mosques, community fridges, mutual aids, etc) and over 3,000 volunteers. Volunteers come from all over the city, dedicating their Sundays to work in the East Village kitchen, which includes preparing, cooking, and packaging hot meals for distribution throughout all five boroughs. 

EVLovesNYC poster in front of a table of prepared meals

Located at 638 E 6th Street, the 6th Street Community Center is a vibrant and welcoming establishment. At the entrance to the building, many people are lined up outside to receive meals and are in turn greeted with kindness, respect, and understanding. Once you venture inside, you’ll find a community of volunteers working hard to prepare and package meals. The kitchen is a bustling place, both in friendships and in food. The menu is curated with attention to cultures, dietary needs, and quality. Every week, the menu consists of three different meals, each one centered around beef, chicken, or tofu. Side dishes are then chosen based on taste as well as nutritional needs. EVLoves NYC prides itself on its attention to culinary detail and emphasis on serving hot, healthy, and quality food. 

A table full of prepared meals in to-go packaging

Through the kitchen is the packaging room, where the magic continues. Here, volunteers work in an assembly line to package meals, taking care to label the ingredients and allergens. All volunteers, whether they are cooking, packaging, or distributing, wear gloves and other protective equipment to ensure that the food they are serving is clean and of the utmost quality. The food that is packaged in this room is either distributed at the front entrance to those in line, or it is taken to Tompkins Square Park to be distributed at 1:30PM to anyone– no questions asked. The packaging room is an inspiring place filled with volunteers who are nourished by teamwork and community.

Two volunteers smile and wave at the camera while preparing food

EVLoves NYC’s attention to detail and emphasis on New York as a united city of support makes this food distribution nonprofit an organization like no other. Food is personal to everyone, and EVLoves NYC goes the extra mile to ensure that this need is met. When I spoke with Tyler, he said, “We try to make people feel at home with food. We like to have a story behind the food and stress to people that food is really the center of any kind ethnic background or culture. A lot of people associate themselves with a set of spices or a dish, it’s really almost like a way of showing national pride”. 

A close up of one of EVLovesNYC's prepared meals

PROTESTRA is proud to partner with the EVLoves NYC Food Kitchen for our December concerts, “Community Chords: String Orchestra Music from Around the World”. Like food, music is deeply personal and deeply embedded within our communities and cultures. PROTESTRA strives to curate a musical experience that is representative of the culture, community, and the connection that is present at the EVLoves NYC Food Kitchen.

The concerts will take place on December 16 and 17, both starting at 2:00 PM. The December 16 concert will be held at St. Paul’s German Church, and the December 17 concert will be held at Third Street Music School.

Written by Maya Kile, with editing by Ian Vlahovic

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