Last summer, Robyn Hillman-Harrigan sold organic fresh fruit kabobs from a tricycle cart on the boardwalk in the Rockaways. She called it Shore Fruit. After Superstorm Sandy hit, she began cooking and delivering hot, nutritious meals made with fresh, local produce to residents affected by the storm. She called it Shore Soup.
Now, Hillman-Harrigan is taking her Rockaway food revolution to the next level, with a pay-what-you-can food truck and restaurant, which she hopes will provide residents with access to the healthy, affordable food they’ve been missing. Her Rockaway Shore Relief Restaurant Kickstarter campaign ended on May 4 having raised almost $5,000 more than its goal ($29,550).
The Shore Soup food truck is set to launch within the next few weeks, the storefront will most likely open later this year, and she’s also bringing in a CSA.
“We started the relief project because it was so necessary, but we continued because we wanted to do something sustainable and create a new, better food system in the Rockaways,” she says. “The need was greater after the storm, but it made us—and people all over the city—realize, that there had been a lot of food issues in the area.”
The main one, she says, is that the peninsula is so isolated. It’s especially cut off from the rest of the city since A train service has still not been fully restored. For those without cars, leaving the area is a literal trek, from bus to train, making for a very long ride. And even on the peninsula, getting around can be tricky.
The food options that do exist tend to provide more empty calories than nourishment—pizza, fast food, delis, bodegas. The two supermarkets (Stop and Shop and Walbaum’s), she says, can be hard to get to and pricey.
“There’s no health food store, no Whole Foods, no farmer’s market. None of those things that people take for granted in Manhattan,” she says.
Her Shore Soup food truck and restaurant will operate as a non-profit organization and will serve one free “community meal” each day. Additional menu items, like sandwiches and salads, will be pay-what-you-can. And everything will be made with fresh, organic, local foods, with nutrition in mind.
Of course, Hillman-Harrigan isn’t expecting the TBD food revenue to keep the organization afloat. The Shore Soup Project is hosting a big benefit at the Bowery Hotel in June and is involved in other grant applications and fundraising. If their success so far is any indication of the future, New Yorkers will be thrilled to support them. After all, Soupervan even loaned them its bio-diesel/veggie oil-fueled truck for the summer. —Lisa Elaine Held