Local Restaurants Serve 1,000 Meals Per Day to VOA-Greater New York Clients and Frontline Staff

UPDATE (6/25): The initial 30-day pilot has been extended by two weeks. Chef-prepared meals will be served to clients and staff at eight Volunteers of America-Greater New York programs three days a week.

Thanks to a unique partnership, fifteen New York City restaurants are serving 1,000 delicious chef-prepared meals every weekday to clients and essential workers of Volunteers of America-Greater New York. The 30-day pilot program was spearheaded by Feed the Frontlines NYC, a grassroots initiative that delivers free, nutritious meals prepared by local restaurants to essentials workers and New Yorkers experiencing food insecurity.

Since May 28, the restaurants have been preparing and delivering delicious, hearty lunches—with enough for leftovers—for VOA-Greater New York clients and frontline workers at two supportive housing programs for formerly homeless individuals and those living with behavioral health issues in the Bronx; domestic violence shelters in Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan; and three homeless shelters in Manhattan and Queens. Many of these programs are tucked away in “food deserts,” making access to nutritious, quality food difficult, if not, impossible.

Myung Lee, President and CEO of VOA-Greater New York, said, “Many of the clients in our shelters and supportive housing residences live with serious underlying heath conditions putting them at the highest risk for COVID-19. Even for our most independent and able clients it’s critically important that they remain inside and protected from exposure to disease. These delicious meals are a godsend. Not only are they lovingly and carefully prepared by expert chefs, they are helping keep our clients stay safe and healthy in their apartments as we work hard to let them know they are not alone—we and the community care about them—as they social distance.”

The restaurants are paid an average of $10.50 per meal and receive donated ingredients sourced by Feed the Frontlines NYC and RIVER FUND.

In an industry devastated by COVID-19 and the City shutdown, the pilot program is allowing restaurants to re-hire staff they were forced to let go in March. For instance, Luca Di Pietro, co-founder of Feed the Frontlines NYC and owner of the Tarallucci e Vino restaurant group, has been able to bring back 50 of the 95 employees he was forced to let go in the early days of the pandemic after Mayor de Blasio ordered all restaurants in New York City to close except for take-out and delivery.

Mr. Di Pietro added, “Restaurants are part of the fabric of New York City, but it took the pandemic for us to focus on feeding New Yorkers who need nourishment and care the most. Now, we can’t imagine going back to business as usual, even when a vaccine becomes widely available. We all take great pride in providing wonderful food to all New Yorkers, whether they are dining in one of our restaurants or are simply in need of a comforting meal.”

The VOA-Greater New York/Feed the Frontlines partnership is the brainchild of Otto Starzmann, Chief Production Office at RIVER FUND, an organization devoted to finding innovative ways to fight hunger, homelessness and poverty.

Mr. Starzmann noted, “A key objective is to make this pilot as successful as possible and then to work with the City to expand the model and hopefully make it a permanent strategy for providing meals to vulnerable residents who cannot prepare their own meals. Thousands of homebound seniors, people with disabilities and residents of shelters with no cooking facilities need better solutions than we have had in the past. Restaurants have been delivering meals to people in their homes for a very long time and they have the expertise to get the job done and do it well. The current crisis gives us an opportunity to apply this depth of expertise to a long-entrenched problem and find new solutions. Expanding this program will be a win-win-win for all involved.”

The restaurants participating in the pilot program are:

  • Cafe Kiskeya (Queens)
  • Chocolat (Harlem)
  • Donovan's Pub (Queens)
  • Katz's Delicatessen (Lower East Side)
  • La Newyorkina (Brooklyn)
  • Leche y Miel (Bronx)
  • LoLo's Seafood Shack (Harlem)
  • Mesa Coyoacan (Brooklyn)
  • Parador Caleño (Queens)
  • Taim (Manhattan)
  • Tarallucci e Vino (3 locations, Manhattan)
  • Tosca Marquee (Bronx)
  • Zona Rosa (Brooklyn)

Ms. Lee expressed her deep gratitude to Feed the Frontlines, RIVER FUND and the participating restaurants for recognizing and fulfilling an unmet need.


Volunteers of America-Greater New York (VOA-Greater New York) is the local affiliate of the national organization, Volunteers of America, Inc. and is one of the largest providers of human services in the metropolitan New York area. VOA-Greater New York has 1,300 paid staff that provide life-changing, often life-saving services through 80 programs in New York City, Westchester County and Northern New Jersey. VOA-Greater New York expands and introduces new services in response to community needs. As such, it is at the forefront of building affordable, supportive housing for seniors, providing a service-rich continuum of care for formerly homeless veterans, and expanding its services for those recovering from domestic violence. Operation Backpack® is the organization’s signature community service campaign that ensures every student experiencing homelessness and living in a NYC shelter has a new backpack full of supplies in time for the first day of school.

Feed the Frontlines NYC delivers free, hearty meals to health care professionals caring for COVID-19 patients and New Yorkers experiencing food insecurity, while keeping NYC restaurants open and their hardworking employees on the job. Founded by the owner of the Tarallucci e Vino restaurant group, Luca Di Pietro, his wife, Kate, daughter Isabella (22), and son Ian (19), on March 21, 2020, Feed the Frontlines NYC has raised $1.6 million in contributions and delivered over 116,000 meals to healthcare heroes, frontline workers, and residents at more than 80 New York City hospitals, supportive housing residences and shelters. To meet demand, Tarallucci e Vino has rehired 50 of its own staff, brought 24 other restaurants into the effort and dozens of their workers back on the job. Feed the Frontlines NYC is partnered with the JoyJ Initiative, a non-profit organization that works to provide essential support to individuals and families experiencing homelessness as well as other communities undergoing hardship through direct outreach.

RIVER FUND is a leading poverty frontline center in New York City, with a track-record of serving more than 16,000 families per year. Recognized as the largest free-food outlet in the City, since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in March, the organization’s client volume, and the associated demand for groceries, have quadrupled. Currently distributing some 400,000 pounds of groceries per week to families, RIVER FUND saw the need, early on, to get hot meals to elderly people with severely compromised immune systems who cannot cook for themselves. After experimenting in March and April with several direct partnerships between a handful of restaurants and a few residential facilities for low-income seniors, advancing to a larger pilot project seemed appropriate. RIVER FUND is proud to partner with Feed the Frontlines NYC and Volunteers of America-Greater New York in modeling this program.