joyful plate gives: Thoughts on community work on the Upper West Side
Working on the Upper West Side of Manhattan these past five years has been a wonderful and dramatic change from the cubicle existence I was living for 20+ years. The first year I felt like an anthropologist, studying what people do during the day. I quickly learned that they are perfectly happy and productive doing all kinds of interesting and meaningful projects and there is life beyond midtown!
One of the nicest things that happened midway into my entrepreneurial journey was meeting Jacob Hadjigeorgis, a young food entrepreneur who in 2011 imagined Jacob’s Pickles, a very popular comfort food restaurant in the neighborhood. We were introduced through the West Side Campaign Against Hunger, a wonderful organization we both support (joyful plate since 2001 with risotto charity dinners and classes for WSCAH’s Chef Training Program). Jacob hired me to work with him on the vision for the brand. Early on, he knew he wanted to support the garden next to the restaurant, managed by students enrolled at the Urban Assembly for Green Careers (UAGC). In 2014 we made his dream a reality and created a charity, Jacob’s Pickles Digs NY, to support urban farming.
Last month we hosted a fund raiser led by The Insurgo Project, a powerful NYC group led by Chef Harold Villarosa and Chief Strategy Officer Joaquin Elizondo, which works to secure food access for high-need communities. The event successfully brought together foodies, farmers and philanthropists alike to tour our newly refurbished garden. A ribbon cutting ceremony took place paying special tribute to The Dwight School (where Jacob attended) to thank them for their generous donation of the their greenhouse to our garden. Members from Jacob’s Digs, students and faculty from the UAGC spoke eloquently about what the garden has done for them -learning to grow and growing from learning.