The past year has brought challenges that we could not have anticipated and that many may not have survived without communities coming together to support one another.

For New York City restauranteur Luca Di Pietro, owner of the Italian bistro Tarallucci e Vino, it was painful to close four of his five locations and lay off 95 employees amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Though initially discouraged, Di Pietro became inspired by Adair Roberts, a friend who ordered 40 meals from Taralluci e Vino for emergency room workers at a New York hospital. Adair’s generosity gave Di Pietro the idea of “feeding the frontlines.” 

Di Pietro founded Feed The Frontlines NYC with his daughter, Isabella. With the help of generous donors, he was able to bring back employees to make high-quality and nutritious food for healthcare workers who put their lives on the line every day. 

With the support of the community, Feed The Frontlines NYC raised $25,000 in 12 hours to help feed essential workers. 

“And from there, it just snowballed,” Di Pietro said. “We made contact with many, many hospitals. The need was incredible. Nurses and doctors coming out to get their meals were saying, ‘Thank you so much.’”

Soon, people from around the world were helping as the Di Pietro family raised awareness through social media and in the news, including a feature on “The Today Show.” A five-minute interview raised over $30,000 in small-dollar donations. 

Among those helping Di Pietro was PepsiCo, which donated funds that delivered over 17,000 nutritious meals from NYC restaurants to local healthcare workers and people having trouble putting food on the table.

As the word spread and support grew, Feed the Frontlines NYC was able to expand its focus to tackle another issue exacerbated by the pandemic: food insecurity. The number of food insecure people in New York state increased from 1.2 million to 2 million as a result of the pandemic, and 74% of New York food pantries and soup kitchens saw increases in patronage. 

Today, Feed The Frontlines NYC is a 40-restaurant-strong coalition that has provided more than 191,000 meals to healthcare workers and New Yorkers facing food insecurity. Subsequently, 140 restaurant employees were able to return to work.

The Di Pietro family wants to continue to make a difference. 

“Our goal is to expand the program to even more neighborhoods,” Isabella Di Pietro said.