Long Island City resident Brian Pham donated over 300 meals to the Chinese Community Center, located in Chinatown.
The idea came to Pham two days before his birthday, when his old roommate shared a video with him of a 65-year-old Asian woman who was beaten on 360 W 43rd St. This hit home for Pham because he used to live very close to that apartment building and would walk past it every day to get home.
“Something just triggered me from watching that and I was like, ‘I need to do something to give back back and spread awareness about what is going on,’” Pham said.
His close friend who is very involved in the community, Katherine Vu, was the one who suggested to Pham that he cook meals for the AAPI elderly who are “very vulnerable at this moment.” Pham thought it was a great idea because he has a passion for cooking.
Since his birthday was coming up, Pham decided to create a GoFundMe in order to receive donations to pay for meals.
“I originally set out to cook just 100 meals on my own, asking friends and family for donations around $5 a meal, and I ended up hitting that goal in an hour,” Pham said. “Next thing you know, I’m like around 800 meals that I have been meaning to cook!”
Pham then reached out to the Chinese Community Center to see if they would be interested in taking part in this event.
“When Brian called us about his desire to cook meals for our community, we were deeply moved by this unexpected surprise. With the rise of Asian hate crimes plaguing our city, it was great to see young people like Brian reach out to provide us support and encouragement,” Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association President Justin Yu said. “He did not allow the negativity targeted at the Asian community to keep him down. Instead, he took positive action and made a difference in the lives of those he served.”
Because of the overwhelming support from his family and peers, Pham planned to do two events instead of one, since it would be too much to do for one day. They’ve already had their first event.
“So we did one event with 320 meals,” Pham said. “We sent out a volunteer form and got about 30 volunteers to help us cook and to help us source vegetables and transport. We shopped at Asian wholesalers and Asian supermarkets so we can funnel the money back into the Asian AAPI community.”
Pham direct-messaged many chefs on Instagram in hopes that they would help him cook for this event. To his dismay, not many responded. But, at an AAPI rally, Pham spotted YouTuber Andrew Fung, who makes a lot of food videos on his channel. Pham told him about the work he was doing and Fung was able to get him connected to Erik Kwan, who was a champion on the show “Chopped.”
Kwan cooked 150 meals with the help of some of Pham’s volunteers for the event and Pham was able to cook 150 meals with his friends in Queens, as well. Each meal kit included one meal, drink, a pastry and a flyer that shows their support of the Asian community. The flyer also included information for the company SafeWatch.
The event was a tremendous success. According to Pham, the first 150 meals were gone in 18 minutes and they were completely out of food within the first 50 minutes of setting up.
“It just goes to show you how much need there is in the community,” Pham said.
This event drove Pham and his friends Vu and Kristani Alcantara to create a nonprofit called Meals for Unity, which will focus on marginalized communities in need by feeding them monthly.
They will be holding their next event with the Chinese Community Center on May 15.
“CCBA looks forward to seeing Brian and his team again and we want them to know that we are thankful to everyone involved in bringing hope to our community,” President Justin Yu said.
If you would like to help Meals for Unity, you can donate to their GoFundMe page or sign up to volunteer. Make sure to check out @mealsforunity on Instagram to stay updated on events they are doing in the city.