Big Feast for Sandy Relief: The Big Shop

December 12, 2012

This is a very special Whole Foods Market Holiday Big Feast centered around community giving. 

This week, we're shopping and cooking for a soup kitchen that is dedicated to Sandy relief. 

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When Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, the Food52 team wanted to help. So we got in touch with Allison Robicelli. She seemed to be the person to go to -- her Twitter account was the most actively-updated resource for all things Sandy-relief. She told us where to go in Gerritsen Beach, and gave us ideas for what to bring. Not much time went by before she told us she'd set up a soup kitchen in Bay Ridge, and using her Twitter account, she'd rounded up food donations and volunteers to assemble sandwiches, and prep and cook large batches of anything they could. 

That's when we thought that Allison's kitchen (also known as the Bay Ridge Cares Kitchen BRiCK, for short) was a perfect match for the Whole Foods-sponsored big feast. When we pitched the idea to Whole Foods, they upped the ante and increased the donation to $5,000 from $1,500. We didn't want to make more work for Allison, though -- she's got a lot going on between the kitchen, her bakery, her two kids, and she's recovering from a car accident -- so a few of us volunteered to do whatever we had to do to make the Big Feast posts happen, including shopping with Allison, volunteering in the kitchen, writing the posts, and getting our friends to take photos. When we told all of this to Allison, her response was overwhelmingly thankful and she said "this is going to feed so many people." 

This is bigger than a Big Feast -- Allison's team feeds 800 to 1,000 people six days a week. And this is community giving at its best, Bay Ridge Cares is feeding their fellow neighbors who are still without electricity, or have lost their homes, and the relief workers who are helping rebuild communities. Today, we're sharing our very big Whole Foods shopping trip to stock the soup kitchen with staples, so they can get more creative with their cooking

Allison gives a bulk bin primer. Not everything in here is ideal for a soup kitchen -- dried beans require much more effort (and counterspace for soaking, and stovetop space for a long cooking time) so we don't get any of those. 

But we do get lots and lots of quinoa, split peas, lentils (green and red), brown rice, barley, and oats. That Kristen's brother, Billy, helping me out for the day. 

After clearing out shelves of canned goods in other aisles, we're stopped by breadcrumbs -- and take them all. 

And the beef stock catches Allison's eye. Since it's on sale, we stock up. 

Short pastas are best for the soup kitchen, says Allison. Then she directs us to take all the short pasta, whole wheat and regular. 

All of it. 

Same for the canned tomatoes. Gotta get 'em all. 

We need to drop off these carts and start fresh with new ones. 

This is about half of our haul. Off to produce. 

Allison wants all the red cabbages in stock and they're a little hard to reach. 

So Billy gives me a boost so I can dig them all up. 

Is this enough green peppers? Nope. And we go get more. 

It takes two to lift the glass and pick out beef shoulders. These huge pieces of meat are especially exciting for Allison. She wants to give people protein-rich meals, and meat is a real treat (and not something the kitchen can normally afford to splurge on).

See all those turkey sausages? We're taking them. 

Inspecting our list, and feeling good about the meals to come.

The best part about all of this is that we only spent about half the donation from Whole Foods, so Allison and her team get to make another big grocery trip and feed more people. 

Check back Friday to see our day in the Bay Ridge Cares Kitchen! 

Photos by Sarah Shatz

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Michael Hoffman
    Michael Hoffman
  • cheese1227
  • fiveandspice
  • aargersi
  • HalfPint
I'm a freelance food and prop stylist, writer/editor, and video producer.


Michael H. January 21, 2013
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cheese1227 December 12, 2012
What a great effort! One question: what kind of vehicle was needed to haul all of that to the soup kitchen?
fiveandspice December 12, 2012
Wow. Good for all of you! What an inspiring feast project.
aargersi December 12, 2012
Wow - what a shopping! And what a great thing Allison (and y'all, and Whole foods) are doing
HalfPint December 12, 2012
Allison Robicelli has been amazing and I think it's high time she get some recognition for it. You can point to her and say "See, that's how you get it done."
Kristy M. December 12, 2012
Exactly! She gets things done. And it's very impressive.
enbe December 12, 2012
Yay for feeding people! Thanks for this update. It's great that you were able to contact someone who knows the ropes.