Mini food pantry in East Harlem building (301780)
Credit: Eileen Barett photos
Chef Eileen Barett (301662)

My name is Chef Eileen and I am a seasoned chef with a passion for delicious and healthy food. A Harlem native after a decade in Boston, I returned home to study and start a family-owned business. My hands are in different areas of the food industry which gives me a large pool of information from which to write. Teaching cooking is a passion and I am blessed to have the opportunity to make a difference in my community. East Harlem is my home.

One pandemic spring afternoon, I walked into my East Harlem apartment building and found a bag of food on a radiator in the lobby. I figured someone had placed it there temporarily and would soon return for it. That evening, the bag remained with only some of its contents and the addition of flour tortillas. A sign read, “Please take.” As months passed, this radiator held many food items and those items blessed many hungry families.

Across the globe, health and wellness was at the forefront in 2020. The mainstream media was talking about food insecurity on a regular basis. With the pandemic came concerns about our food supply chain and these concerns highlighted food insecurity. As a chef, I am accustomed to talking about food, bold flavors and recipes; however, it is within my position as an educator in vulnerable communities and as a student of community health where nutrition, wellness and food insecurity are most relevant.

Topics centered around food insecurity are prevalent in the community health industry and in nonprofit agencies. It has more than doubled in America and the numbers in our underserved communities surpass the national average. There remains a great need.

Today, in my East Harlem building, a small corner of the lobby serves as a mini food pantry all due to the kindness of one neighbor who placed the first bag of groceries. Thank you for sensing the need of our fellow neighbors and for doing your part. To the others who continue to add food, thank you for joining the fight against food insecurity in our building and in our neighborhood. We are neighbors feeding neighbors.

While this has been a dark time for many, it has also brought out some of the best in people and shined a light on issues that have not always been front and center. I am excited about my new role here at AmNewsFOOD and look forward to having many meaningful conversations about experiencing food in Harlem and beyond.

Are you or someone you know a food/beverage/hospitality expert and want to join our team of staff writers? Reach out, as AmNewsFOOD continues to expand the team!

Eileen Barett is a chef, nutrition educator, culinary instructor, flavor consultant and the Executive Chef at Aromas Boutique bakery. Visit her at, @AromasBakery on Instagram, Chef Eileen on YouTube.

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Kysha Harris, @SCHOPnyc, Food Editor