An Astoria resident is helping to feed food-insecure families and communities in New York City amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Daniel Calder is the executive director of the Nourish Box, whose mission is to fight the destructive effects of hunger by delivering boxed meal kits to food insecure families and communities.
The Nourish Box mainly operates throughout Queens, either delivering meal kits directly to families, distributions at food banks, or placing meal kits in community fridges.
“Since our official launch, we have delivered nearly 400 meal kits to food-insecure families throughout Queens, through partnerships with local food banks, mutual aid organizations, and Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman and Zohran Kwame Mamdani,” Calder said.
Just as Calder was about to make plans to expand their programming, COVID-19 hit, resulting in the shutdown of schools across the city.
“Massive food insecurity was an immediate concern and I was determined to ensure our students remained healthy and had access to nutritious ingredients to cook healthy meals at home,” Calder said.
That’s when Calder started packing and delivering meal kits to students and their families. Each meal kit includes a recipe card and ingredients to make the meals they enjoyed preparing and eating in their cooking classes, Calder said.
The Nourish Box Meal Kits come in two sizes: Little Spoon and Big Spoon.
The Little Spoon Meal Kits provides two to three meals for a family. It contains non-perishable foods that can be quickly packed up and distributed to communities in need.
The Big Spoon Meal Kit is delivered monthly to a family impacted by hunger. It contains enough fresh and non-perishable ingredients to make six to ten meals.
“We quickly received positive feedback and attention to our meal kit deliveries, resulting in an influx of donations for our work,” Calder said. “Since our meal kits were so well received, and it was clear we could not continue after school programming in the near future, I decided to officially shift our mission, branding and name – and Nourish Box was born.”
Calder has always been passionate about working to help alleviate health inequities in underserved communities in New York City.
Prior to launching the Nourish Box, Calder was already organizing and implementing wellness programs for young people at a homeless shelter in Harlem.
“I really enjoyed this type of work, while also realizing the need to provide fitness and nutrition programs for youth who lack access to wellness resources,” said Calder, whose education and background is in public health. “So, I decided to expand this type of work and provide classes at schools in neighborhoods with higher health disparities.”
To support his work, Calder needed to hire teachers and also fund-raise to support the programs. In 2016, he established the nonprofit organization, the Health League Action.
During those four years, the Health League Action provided thousands of classes for over 700 students.
In their healthy cooking classes, children learned how to make kale and sweet potato salad, vegetarian chili, sweet corn salad wraps and Vietnamese summer rolls.
“Our goal was to ignite a passion for healthy cooking and eating,” Calder said.
The after school programs were mainly done at schools in East Harlem, and the team eventually expanded its programs to Queens and Brooklyn.
Though they’re currently unable to offer in-person classes due to COVID-19, Calder said Nourish Box hopes to implement healthy cooking classes at schools and community centers using their meal kits.
“We will focus on serving Queens residents with our classes but hope to expand with further support and resources,” Calder said. “I feel great about Nourish Box’s future. Ultimately, our goal is to take a novel approach to ending hunger.”