Part of the NYC Community Organization Spotlight series
Name: Chilis on Wheels
What they do: Chilis on Wheels (CoWs) supports multiple communities in New York and across the U.S “through services such as meal shares, food demos, clothing drives, and mentorship, our network of partners work in areas all around the country to help make veganism accessible to communities in need”. Beyond providing direct relief, CoWs supports communities to build alternate systems of survival and works to create a more just and sustainable food system through policy. During the Covid-19 pandemic, they have also expanded their operations to deliver groceries to individuals, families, and students in need, set up plant-based free community fridges, and micro pantries.
How they do it: Chilis on Wheels accomplishes this through volunteers and a wide network of organizations across the U.S. All services offered through Chilis on Wheels are free of charge. They have been able to partner with a number of community and cultural groups and coalitions (OFNS, mutual aid groups, GrowNYC, AfroIndigenous groups, anti-poverty coalitions, policymakers, The Healthy Future Students and Earth Act, local restaurants) to make veganism inclusive and accessible to everyone.
Latest project/campaign: Chilis on Wheels is currently focused on working with youth and making plant-based food accessible to students. During the height of the pandemic Chilis on Wheels distributed groceries and hot meals to thousands of people across New York City. Chilis on Wheels provided vegan meals in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria hit. Their team distributed 15,000 meals within two months. They have also worked with Maui Rapid Response to provide hot meals to Maui’s unhoused population and to land defenders. During the Black Liberation and anti-police brutality movement of 2020, Chilis on Wheels provided meals to protesters in New York City as well. These are just a few highlights of Chilis on Wheels outstanding policy and reform work.
Major Funding: Chilis on Wheels donations come primarily from individuals. In kind donations to the organization include VSpot Restaurant, Modern Love, Grow NYC, Erin McKenna’s Bakery, Marty’s Burgers, Dun-Well Donuts, LifeThyme, and Orchard Grocer.
Annual Budget: N/A
Interesting fact about how it is working to positively affect the food system: Chilis on Wheels believes in creating alternate systems of survival within the communities they serve while advocating for systemic change through policy. Through leading with veganism they hope to impact a just and fair transition to a sustainable food system that benefits all Beings and the planet. Their work is based on a mutual aid model to empower everyone involved and center the communities they serve. Beyond working with individuals, they also work with organizations working with food to help them transition to plant-based meals.
Location: Chilis on Wheels began in 2014 in Brooklyn, New York and has expanded its network to California, Ohio, Hawaii, New England, Puerto Rico, and Washington D.C.
Core Programs: According to their site, Chilis on Wheels has a number of core programs including:
- Meal Shares: Through our regularly scheduled meal shares, we provide vegan food to anyone in need of a warm meal. We offer a wide range of vegan meal options to best cater to our communities needs. We also distribute water, fresh produce, and groceries during our meal shares.
- Workshops: Upon request, we provide vegan workshops for the members of our communities. From food demos to talks on veganism, we’ll work with your church, community center, school, or group in whatever way we can.
- Clothing Drives: During our clothing drives, we provide animal-free weather-appropriate clothing in good condition to anyone in need.
- Free Store: Our Free Store offers animal-free toiletries, sleeping bags, and a variety of other personal care items upon request.
- Mentorship: We offer a free, 21 day program which includes daily informative emails, a full cost-effective meal plan, and a mentor of similar socioeconomic, ethnic, and other intersecting identities.
- Microsanctuary: With millions of farmed animals being exploited, we provide a space where animal liberation is possible.
Furthermore, Chilis on Wheels has a number of other regular programs, including an annual Community Feast , a free vegan education program, educational food sovereignty initiatives with Afro descendant and Indigenous groups in Colombia and beyond, and policy work in making plant-based eating accessible among schools across the U.S through The Healthy Future Students and Earth Act.
Number of staff: 3
Number of volunteers: 10 core volunteers
Areas served: New York, California, Ohio, Hawaii, New England, Puerto Rico, and Washington D.C.
Year Started: 2014
Director: Eloisa Trinidad
Contact Information: Email preferred
Phone Number: N/A
Follow Chilis on Wheels on Instagram, Facebook, and their website for updates on current work and emerging priorities.