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Liz Alvarez: Program Director at The Connected Chef

The Connected Chef is working to ensure that all residents of Queens, New York have access to healthy food. Their grocery boxes and farm stands provide nutritious, locally-sourced food to all members of the community regardless of ability to pay. Learn more about their work here!

Can you tell me about how The Connected Chef defines food access?


Creating food access is a key component of our mission; we seek to create equity through the medium of food. We’re creating a microsystem where people can get food that isn’t connected to their socioeconomic status. Our sliding scale grocery boxes are delivered on a weekly basis and are full of ingredients that are curated to include fruits, vegetables, and a grain. Folks pay on a sliding scale and self-select the rate at which they pay. Some people pay $0 and some pay up to $45, but everybody gets the same box regardless of what they pay. Our programs are rooted in mutual aid and trust is a big part of that, we want to meet people where they are.


Where is your food sourced from?


At least 80% of the food we have in the grocery boxes and farm stands comes from local farms in the Tri-State Area. We make a conscious effort to lean into the communities that we serve by working with local BIPOC farmers. For example, we partner with Angel Farms, which is a female-run farm started by a Mexican family that has amazing produce in upstate New York. Our food comes from a variety of farms which allows us to have access to a ton of different kinds of fruits, vegetables, and grains. We want there to be a balance of ingredients, and it needs to be food that people can actually use. When possible, we add food that is culturally relevant to the community and include specialty ingredients that are still easy to integrate into meals.


Can you tell me about your farm stands?


We have two farm stands, one in Long Island City and one in Astoria. The farm stands have two pricing levels, which are named by colors so that people don’t feel uncomfortable asking for the “cheaper” or “more expensive” one. We also set a time for people to pick up free food boxes at the stands on a first come first serve basis. The food at the farm stands is primarily the same as what is included in the grocery boxes. Food that is nutritious and whole is hard to come by, and we want to create different modes for people to get access to it.


What is the best part of your job?


My main oversight is developing our existing programs and creating partnerships. We want to be experts at creating access around food. We know that food accessibility often overlaps with other issues, like employment, child care, and housing. Our partnerships help us refer folks to other organizations that can help with the outside factors that impact food access. Food is so simple and is one of the quickest ways to connect with someone else. When someone serves you something that they made, it says so much without saying any words. I love that we are able to forge such deep relationships with our community through the connecting medium of food.



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