Tony Hillery and Harlem Grown: COVID-19 Food Heroes

by NYC Food Policy Editor

Why They’re Food Heroes: Without the farms running this year, Tony Hillery launched Harlem Grown’s Harlem Helping Harlem program in March 2020 to help the community get through the COVID-19 crisis together. The program is straightforward: Harlem Grown purchases meals from local restaurants and delivers these meals to people living in shelters. With three goals in mind—providing hot, nutritious meals to families living in shelters, supporting local businesses, and supporting the nonprofit—the program managed to deliver more than thirteen thousand meals to people in need and help local restaurants keep staff employed. 

Background: Tony Hillery, owner of a limousine company, had been volunteering at elementary schools in Harlem when he noticed the lack of educational and nutritional resources available to the students. Using an abandoned community garden nearby, he founded Harlem Grown in 2011. Harlem Grown began as an urban farm and community garden that integrated children’s education with improvement to healthy food access in Harlem. The organization has since transformed many empty lots in the neighborhood into thriving community gardens, and has twelve locations throughout Harlem. The planting season is usually done by children from nearby schools, but with the COVID-19 pandemic closing New York City schools, the organization had to find an alternative strategy to feed the community. 

Work: Prior to the pandemic, Harlem Grown had expanded to reach almost three thousand students per year, growing more than two thousand pounds of produce per season. 

Location: Harlem, Manhattan

Awards, Praise and Honors: Harlem Grown received a Columbia Community Service “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” grant in 2019 and 2020. The organization also received a gift of one hundred laptops to Harlem schoolchildren from TD Bank, a partner of Harlem Grown. 

Website: Harlem Grown, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter

Resources and References:

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