May 22, 2015

Last weekend, Upper Manhattan was abuzz with excitement during Harlem EatUp!, a four-day festival celebrating the food, culture and spirit of the neighborhood. Because of our impact in the area, Citymeals was chosen to be one of the two charity beneficiaries for all festival events.

Harlem EatUp! was conceived by Chef Marcus Samuelsson of Red Rooster Harlem and veteran event producer Herb Karlitz who teamed up to pay homage to Harlem’s roots and cultural fabric. Some of the biggest stars of the uptown culinary scene – Alexander Smalls (Minton’s, The Cecil), Joseph “JJ” Johnson (The Cecil), Melba Wilson (Melba’s Restaurant), Frank Pellegrino (Rao’s) and Tren’ness Woods-Black (Sylvia’s Restaurant) – participated during the weekend. Through our partnership, Citymeals also organized nearly 250 New Yorkers who volunteered at all Harlem EatUp! events.

On Friday, diners gathered at the Leonard Covello Senior Center for an evening of extravagant cuisine prepared by Citymeals Board Co-President Chef Daniel Boulud. The center, which normally serves as a hub for our meal preparation and deliveries, was transformed into Chef Boulud’s kitchen for the night. Guests enjoyed a menu inspired by the unique feel and breadth of today’s Harlem landscape. This dinner was just one of the many Dine In Harlem events which kicked off the festival.

The following day, community leaders and members of the Citymeals family contributed to various panel discussions at the Studio Museum. In the morning, Citymeals Co-Founder Gael Greene talked about writing the first review of Harlem landmark Sylvia’s Restaurant in 1979, while Chef Boulud discussed how he came to love Harlem. Later that afternoon, Executive Director Beth Shapiro and Board Member Aliyyah Baylor spoke about the importance of community involvement and giving back. Baylor explained that her grandmother – who lived to be 92 years old – was the inspiration for her decision to support Citymeals.

On both Saturday and Sunday, Morningside Park was filled with event goers hungry to sample what Harlem chefs had to offer. From classic soul food dishes to vegan fare, there was something for everyone. Former President Bill Clinton, the event’s honorary chair, gave a speech on Saturday afternoon while Bill de Blasio mingled with the crowd.

Each year, we deliver nearly 200,000 meals to homebound elderly in East, West and Central Harlem. In 2005, Citymeals launched the Friendly Visiting program in the neighborhood, and now nearly 18% of our meal recipients participating in Friendly Visiting live in Harlem. In addition to our regular deliveries, Citymeals also provides 7,280 Mobile Food Pantry bags and 14,000 bags of locally grown fruit and vegetables to isolated older Harlemites every year.