Astoria residents Kim Calichio and her husband Omar Bravo-Pavia have been working to carry high-quality, fresh produce to families all through Queens, particularly immigrants who’ve largely been excluded from authorities support packages.
Calichio and Bravo-Pavia began The Connected Chef in the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The two have been each out of labor, and having been in the restaurant enterprise, knew many immigrant families who have been unable to obtain stimulus checks or any type of authorities support to survive.
“It all started on our couch,” Calichio mentioned. “We were talking about how devastating that we were a part of a community that was all of the sudden put out of work but at the same time didn’t qualify for unemployment benefits or stimulus funding. They didn’t have access to the very basic assistance that was available at the time.”
Calichio and Bravo-Pavia knew that in the event that they didn’t act rapidly, lots of their mates have been going to run out of meals.
“We knew that group of people were going to be in the most need. It wasn’t like anyone else who could get government support,” Bravo-Pavia mentioned. “Eventually we knew we had to do something bigger than just helping our friends.”
Calichio and Bravo-Pavia began delivering meals to mates; in the primary week, they delivered 25 bins of meals. It grew exponentially from there — by the tip of the primary month, the couple was delivering 400 bins per week. Deliveries are primarily targeted in Elmhurst, Corona, Jackson Heights, Astoria and Long Island City.
The Connected Chef boasts that they’re very totally different from different meals help packages. Calichio mentioned that families can proceed to obtain groceries for so long as they need, with no strain to cease service. They additionally make the additional effort to ship bins proper to their doorsteps, which was an intentional technique to protect families’ dignity.
“Every other food service, you get in line and it’s a first-come-first-serve type of thing,” Calichio mentioned. “There are folks who wait on line at a food pantry for hours. You don’t know how much food is there and how much you’re going to get. There’s so much shame in asking for help in our society to begin with, and let alone having to visibly be on these lines — it’s not the best way. But with us, people can sign up and they know they can rely on us on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. It allows them to know there’s a consistent source of healthy, nutritious vegetables and groceries.”
Calichio was nominated to be a 2022 NCS Hero by her sister and a pal for the work she and her husband have been doing. Calichio described the popularity from NCS as “pretty surreal.”
“It was pretty incredible, after two years of spending so much time and energy together to have such a large media outlet cover what we’re doing and recognize our work,” Calichio mentioned. “We’re in awe that that actually happened.”
At the peak of the pandemic, the Connected Chef delivered 2,000, 25-pound luggage of produce and grains per week. The group grew right into a full-time job, now delivering 550 bins of meals bi-weekly, which Calichio and Bravo-Pavia by no means anticipated. However, Connected Chef has, sadly, had to halt deliveries
“It’s getting more and more difficult to continue this because of the funding that’s required,” Calichio mentioned. “The need has not slowed down; if anything it’s grown.”
The Connected Chef is working to see further funding sources past group donations. A sponsorship drive was kicked off, the place folks can donate month-to-month to the group. A donation of as little as $25 can ship one free grocery field.
“Even if someone can donate $25 a month, that is enough to collectively get us the funding that we need,” Calichio mentioned. “
Connected Chef hopes to attain 160 month-to-month sponsorships which might give them an extra $4,000 in funding for groceries. The Connected Chef spends about $9,000 per week to keep their work, which incorporates groceries and paying their employees of 11 folks.
To donate or be taught extra in regards to the Connect Chef, go to their website.