Coming together to support NYC
In May, as the restaurant industry reeled from nationwide shutdowns, a group of four friends noticed that in the midst of an onslaught of bad news there were bright spots. Namely, they noticed a lot of people looking to help out their neighbors in any way that they could. “We noticed a lot of people looking for places to donate and who wanted to mobilize people to support others,” remembers Kelsey Shaw, one fourth of the friend group. In New York City in particular, Shaw noticed that organizations centering communities hardest hit by the pandemic needed funding but were too busy doing work to fundraise. So the group of friends got to work, thinking about how to bridge the connections between these groups and people who wanted to help.
Less than six months later, Shaw, along with Natasha Pickowicz, Emily Eisen and Susan Alexandra Korn launched In Good Taste, an online fundraiser that helps raise money for great causes and ultimately “supports the people that make New York, New York”. The group has also included some of NYC’s most creative people: writers, bakers, chefs, activists and more to create their own “NYC Starter Pack” of locally made products and services that speak to what each of them love most about living in this city.
It works like this: people visit the site and bid on each starter pack (at $25 per entry). All of the funds go to organizations that are helping New Yorkers. “What we aim to do here is to support underserved and overlooked communities in New York by raising money for critical causes,” Shaw explains. The first round of sales raised $12,000 and benefited NICE - New Immigrant Community Empowerment, a Queens-based non-profit that works to improve the lives of vulnerable immigrant workers in NYC. Their second round raised $11,000 for Good Call, a 24/7 hotline that provides New Yorkers access to a free attorney if they are arrested, regardless of race, sex or income.
As a group with ties to the hospitality industry, the founders of In Good Taste know the power of the kitchen to do more than provide a place to eat and wanted to bring that ethos to In Good Taste. “A home kitchen can be a really meditative space – it provides nourishment and comfort. Through the pandemic, it has been a place for people to harness their skills to do good. Look at what Paola Velez, one of our Tastemakers, encouraged home bakers to do for Bakers Against Racism – no kitchen is too small to raise awareness and money for good,” Shaw says. The impetus to include creatives in this project came from being very intentional about the values they wanted to share with people. “We started by asking ourselves, ‘who makes a community?’” With that in mind, the group designed a product from the inside out, with their values at the center, an occurrence that has been happening far more often, Shaw says. “With the pandemic I think people are turning inward and looking at what really matters to them,” she adds.
“When we started this project we saw so many things around us we wanted to change,” Pickowicz says about the genesis of this project. As a former restaurant worker, she says that the early months of the pandemic were hard because she missed the kitchen. Not the one in her home, but the one she cooked in at the restaurant where she worked back of the house with her team. “I felt a powerful lack of being in that kitchen environment,” she remembers. “I went from having 16 hr days at work to days at home that felt infinite. Nothing could have prepared me for that.”
But in the midst of this uncertainty she, along with Shaw, Eisen and Korn saw a way that they could help and make others feel a little less hopeless. As the months waned on, and social justice came to the forefront alongside the pandemic, In Good Taste’s mission grew to also tackle social justice issues and building the equity and inclusion that the founders of In Good Taste want to see in their communities. “We were unemployed and trying to make sense of the world around us and what we wanted to be doing,” she says.
For Pickowicz, she hopes the message for users is to be more thoughtful about where they live and how they can support people and organizations that are making it better for everyone. “I hope (In Good Taste) emphasizes where you work and where you live,” she says. It’s already worked to make her think about her kitchen and home space differently. “I feel a lot of gratitude.”