Food for Soul launches community meals and partnerships in New York and San Francisco

As Refettorio projects prepare activations in the USA, Food for Soul and its partners expand community meals services for neighbors in need.

Thanksgiving-Jerk Chicken Lineup

Modena, November 25th 2020– Food for Soul, the non-profit organization founded by Chef Massimo Bottura and Lara Gilmore, is excited to announce the first activation of two new Refettorios, one in Harlem, New York and another in San Francisco, California which will officially open in 2021. Despite the global health crisis, Food for Soul’s Refettorios around the world, currently eight at this date, have continued to operate and care for those most socially vulnerable.  At the heart of Food for Soul’s mission is collaboration. Working together with local non-profit organizations, artists, chefs and companies, Food for Soul nourishes social well-being, improves the sustainability of food systems and provides culinary training and workforce opportunities for those facing economic barriers.  Beginning this holiday Thanksgiving week, Refettorio projects, coast to coast, will kick into action by collaborating with local partners Youth Action YouthBuild and Hot Bread Kitchen in Harlem and Farming Hope in San Francisco to serve community meals to those facing social vulnerabilities and isolation. These coordinated grassroots efforts offer a moment to celebrate the power of food, art and culture to create social change. 

“Imagine a jam session where the most amazing artists are performing, all together, to lift up the souls. What we’re doing is exactly the same, a song of collaboration which is unifying Food for Soul efforts and our partners to take action. We’re building our new Refettorios’ walls, but we cannot stand aside in a moment when communities need us the most.”

Massimo Bottura

Collaborating with these community partners, who have been doing the work of feeding and empowering folks on the margins locally with successful outcomes, is core to the model of a Refettorio.  These relations ensure projects have a strong foundation to become long-term community hubs with programs that are responsive and expansive to support the local need.

The Food for Soul US debut is not about the number of meals served or how many pounds of food are recovered, but the compassion, hospitality and beauty behind each meal served. It is about Giving Thanks to local community organizations, through support for their dedication to ensure no individual is left behind in the face of global pandemic. Community meals* will not only provide nourishment for those most socially vulnerable, it will sustain culinary job training and apprenticeships for at-risk neighbors, specifically youth in Harlem, and secure workforce opportunities for those most affected in the food and hospitality sector.   

Starting Thanksgiving week, Refettorio projects* in Harlem and San Francisco will collaborate with local community partners to support the socially vulnerable with a nourishing meal to feed the body and soul.  Every meal is a gesture of hospitality, empathy and compassion because Cooking is an Act of Love.



 “Before you can feed someone’s spirit, you must feed their stomach.”  Reverend Kahli Mootoo, Emanuel African Methodist Episcoal Church

Refettorio Harlem will be located in an over 100-year old church which has a vibrant history of activities acting as a food pantry. Due to urgency of the moment, and while renovations are taking place in the Refettorio, Food for Soul is activating an immediate Community Service throughout the holiday season through the support of Hot Bread Kitchen Chefs collective meals and its operational partners Youth Action YouthBuild (YAYB).   

For the past 40 years YAYB has been putting young adults in New York City on the path to self-empowerment. Their programs include job skills training, job placement services, high school equivalency certification, civic service engagement and a safe environment where students are encouraged to become leaders in their communities. In the future, YAYB’s Good Food Jobs Program will be housed in Refettorio Harlem and participants will undertake training in both the back and front of house operations, learn culinary skills and gain experience in the kitchen.  Participants of YAYB’s programs are active volunteers in the community meal initiative distributing meals.

“The opportunity to serve and support community members in need is at the core of why YAYB exists. Our students and staff are excited that we get to bring this element of our work into the Refettorio Harlem initiative,” said Robert Taylor, Executive Director of YAYB.

Community meal partner Hot Bread Kitchen is an organization that creates economic opportunity and mobility for women, immigrants and people of color in New York City, using the vibrant potential of the food industry as a pathway forward. They seek to advance a vision of a food industry that is diverse and equitable.  This collaboration gives the Hot Bread Kitchen Chefs Collective an opportunity to support their professional livelihood while nurturing food assistance for individuals, families through their passion for food and culture.

“At Hot Bread Kitchen we know the path to economic mobility begins with security. This year has shown that when safety nets fall apart, community steps in. We are so grateful to join forces with Food for Soul’s community of partners worldwide to nourish families and strengthen the launchpad for economic opportunity.” —Shaolee Sen, CEO, Hot Bread Kitchen



The  pandemic continues to affect the economic stability and food sufficiency for over 1.5 million New Yorkers with families and children accounting for a 49% increase in need during 2020.  In Harlem, local social safety networks and neighbors are doing their part to support the increasing demands with dignity and consistency.  As part of the community meals initiative, Hot Bread Kitchen’s Chefs Collective will bring tremendous value by preparing 600 meals each week to support Refettorio Harlem’s community service partners.  Hot Bread Kitchen’s Chef Collective is a group of small business owners that work together and with Hot Bread Kitchen to create meals with impact. Members are Harlem-based Minority- and Women-owned Business Enterprises (MWBEs) who make a diverse variety of food: vegetable-forward Jamaican food, Boricua Geechee cuisine, Mediterranean soul food, and southern classics.

Food for Soul’s operational partner Youth Action YouthBuild along with 400 Foundation will coordinate meals for delivery several days a week to offer a gesture of hospitality to those most socially vulnerable across Harlem neighborhoods.  Some of the community partners include: African Services No Women Left Behind and, East Harlem YAYB buildings and neighborhood shelters who will assist Food for Soul and its partners deliver a gesture of hospitality throughout the season into the New Year.



Refettorio San Francisco will be located in the heart of SF just in close proximity to support the immediate needs identified by the city’s Food Security Task Force and community organizations. The project will be led by local operational partner Farming Hope with aims to strengthen community resilience through building local networks that support socio-economic mobility and a healthier food system.

Farming Hope is a garden-to-table job training non-profit organization, with a mission dedicated to empower and employ individuals out of poverty through job apprenticeships and experiential learning in urban gardens and foodservice kitchens. Offering paid, empowering transitional employment for formerly incarcerated or unhoused neighbors, Farming Hope programs support economic opportunities for those who need it most through their social enterprise and food services while nourishing those food insecure across San Francisco.  With a vision to transform lives and rebuild communities, Farming Hope programs also serve the greater community offering volunteer opportunities and events that promote social cohesion through a just food system.  

Refettorio San Francisco will be Farming Hope’s home for job training and community meals,” said Farming Hope Executive Director Jamie Stark. “We all need to be needed. Particularly this time of year, launching with Food For Soul means we can feed more neighbors, and employ more Apprentices for the long-term.“.” 



With over 1 in 4 residents facing food insecurity in SF due to the impact of COVID 19, Farming Hope has responded to the need for individually prepared, nourishing meals, feeding 47,775 San Franciscans since the beginning of shelter-in-place measures. Farming Hope will continue these efforts supporting SF food security initiatives and offer provisions to organizations such as TNDC and SF New Deal.  These efforts will expand adding services for families, children and youth through key partnerships addressing housing and wellbeing.  

Refettorio SF will provide a permanent home for Farming Hope to expand its mission and to support the growing need in San Francisco. During Thanksgiving week, Farming Hope will prepare an additional 450 meals to TNDC and over 170 meals to Conard House.  Giving gratitude and encouragement for these community organizations, staff and volunteers who collectively work to ensure safety, security and well-being for those socially vulnerable in the community.  Meals will be delivered by volunteers from TogetherSF.  Furthermore, Community Meals will continue to be served daily with training staff and apprentices producing 1,500 meals a week at the Refettorio SF location for food insecure neighbors.

*With COVID restrictions and precautionary measures, Refettorio projects will not be open to the public for inside dining, rather work with volunteer networks to distribute meals out in the community through partnerships.  Visit Food for Soul for more information about Refettorios.  To learn more and contribute to the projects visit Refettorio Harlem Renaissance at and  Refettorio San Francisco  at