22 Sep Love Letter to New York City: Chilis on Wheels Celebrates 8 Years of Food Security and Mutual Aid
In June of 2018, I returned to New York City after spending months in Latin America, where I was leading my Uniendo Las Americas entrepreneurship competition.
Food and Latin America are two things that I love deeply. So once I returned to New York City, I was looking for a way to combine these passions. Except this time, there was a twist. A few weeks into my vegan journey, I was looking for some sort of community for this life transition.
So I joined a meetup group called “Vegan Latinos NYC” and received a message from a woman named Eloísa. We exchanged a few messages and then made plans to have lunch the next day at Candle Cafe (miss you, Candle Cafe!).
Eloísa was strong and vibrant, full of energy and endless patience and compassion for me as I asked every question under the sun about veganism, activism, nutrition, social life, dating, you name it.
I left feeling nourished, empowered, seen, and cared for.
4 years of friendship later, I still feel the same way after interacting with Eloísa. But something else became clear to me through these years of sharing time with Eloísa. I realized that just as she has shared knowledge and space with me, she has done so for countless others.
She is an anomaly of a human being, her genius soaring outside of any box, multi-layered and multi-talented. She is an artist, an activist, a writer, an organizer, a human rights observer, and a non-human ambassador and protector. She is one of the most dedicated, fierce, loving, compassionate and brilliant leaders I’ve ever had the good fortune of meeting.
I recently had a chance to spend a Saturday afternoon with Eloísa and her team in Tompkins Square Park with the organization Chilis on Wheels, where Eloísa is currently the executive director.
” We are here every Saturday, rain or shine, as we have been every Saturday for 8 years.”
Chili on Wheels (CoWs) is a New York City-based nonprofit with a national network founded in November of 2014 by Michelle Carrera, a queer Puerto Rican activist. She could not find a soup kitchen in New York City that served vegan meals, so she decided to make her own vegan chili. She and her son, Ollie, delivered the chili to people in the streets on Thanksgiving day. 4 years later, Chili on Wheels has served over 100,000 vegan meals to impacted communities.
During COVID, they also tripled their volunteers to serve thousands of individuals across New York City, including students who already faced high levels of food and housing insecurity, while providing weekly hot meal shares, micro pantries, community fridges, and Black Liberation Movement jail support. Chilis on Wheels is not new to disaster relief and liberation praxis. They led disaster relief in Puerto Rico during Hurricane Maria and supported Indigenous land defenders in Hawaii.
May you all have someone in your life that nourishes your body, mind, heart, and soul as much as this amazing human has for me. Because health is more than kale salads and 5k runs. It’s sitting across from someone you admire and feeling like anything is possible through care, kindness, compassion, and commitment.
Thank you, Eloísa, for showing me the way all those years ago and continuing to do so all these years later.
Meet the dedicated Chilis on Wheels team
Thanks for reading!
This letter is a part of Brian Rashid’s “Love Letters to the World,” a global initiative bringing stories of hope, humanity, and travel/tourism to our world.
A huge thanks to Bradley Tusk, the sponsor of this series called, “Love Letters to New York City.” Bradley is owner of Tusk ventures and Founder of P&T Knitwear.
You can find their story, here.
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Thank you so much for being here on what is literally my dream coming true.
Oh so true!