The Doe Fund distributes hundreds of free Thanksgiving salads in Bed-Stuy as part of new ‘Good Food Works’ initiative

person with bag of salad at the doe fund
Participants in The Doe Fund’s “Ready, Willing and Able” initiative handed out free salads to hundreds of Brooklynites on Nov. 24.
Photo by Paul Frangipane

As Thanksgiving preparations entered full swing last Wednesday, The Doe Fund’s “Men in Blue” handed out free salads in Bedford-Stuyvesant — sending hundreds of Brooklynites home with a green addition to their holiday feasts.

While The Doe Fund regularly gives back to its community, it had never before hosted a free holiday giveaway — and neighbors gathered in Marcy Plaza on Nov. 23 to receive the fresh, chef-prepared salads. Two years ago, the Fund launched “Good Food Works,” a new initiative that aims to improve access to affordable, healthy foods and good jobs throughout the city.

The initiative is part of the organization’s trademark effort, the “Ready, Willing & Able” initiative, a year-long program for formerly homeless and incarcerated men. For the entire year, the Doe Fund provides one-on-one counseling, social support, and paid career opportunities as participants work to re-enter society with jobs, homes, and resources. 

the doe fund thanksgiving giveaway
The Bedford-Stuyvesant salad giveaway was The Doe Fund’s first free food giveaway — though its program participants regularly give back to the community in other ways. Photo by Paul Frangipane
woman takes salad at the doe fund giveaway
The Doe Fund handed out hundreds of fresh, chef-prepared salads on Nov. 23 as part of its new Good Food Works initiative. Photo by Paul Frangipane

“Innovation is what keeps organizations and societies responsive to the needs of their constituents, able to solve the problems of the present day and ready for the future,” said Good Food Works director Jason Finder on Wednesday morning. “It’s a simple concept but in practice, innovation is difficult, especially in the social sector.”

Unlike traditional soup kitchens or food pantries, Good Food Works uses mobile marketplaces and pop-up stands to distribute its meals in neighborhoods with few grocery stores. 

“We sell healthy prepared meals at an affordable price,” Finder said. “We partner with chefs from the neighborhoods where we operate to come up with our recipes, our team makes everything fresh the night before it gets sold and then we pop up in different locations different days of the week offering salads at prices that compete with fast food.”

Parts of south and central Brooklyn are “food deserts” — in neighborhoods like Brownsville and Bedford-Stuyvesant, there are relatively few grocery stores, so communities rely on bodegas or have to shell out at more expensive stores. Visits to food pantries spiked during the pandemic, and have remained high this year as inflation pushed the costs of food higher, according to City Harvest.

The strain can be felt particularly acutely around the holidays. Finder thanked Bed-Stuy for welcoming The Doe Fund and its Men in Blue through the years. 

salad giveaway
Jason Finder, Director of Good Food Works, hands out salads during an event in Marcy Plaza on Nov. 23.Photo by Paul Frangipane

“You have embraced the Doe Fund from its earliest days in the neighborhood in 1990 and you have made possible and made purposeful this next step on our journey,” he said. “I am deeply humbled to get to know so many of you through this work. It has made inspiring, fun and incredibly meaningful the otherwise arduous task of lugging around a 500-pound kiosk and 100 plus salads in New York City every day.”

The initiative even earned the support of the mayor’s office. Mayor Eric Adams has long pushed the importance of healthy, veggie-heavy meals for New Yorkers, and the salad giveaway — and the program at large — line up with his values.

doe fund stand
Bedford-Stuyvesant has welcomed The Doe Fund for decades, said Good Food Works director Jason Finder, and the group is glad to launch additional programs in the nabe. Photo by Paul Frangipane
woman speaking at podium at the doe fund event
Kate MacKenzie, Executive Director of Mayor’s Office of Food Policy, said The Doe Fund’s new Good Food Works initiative is “particularly exciting” as it provides affordable, healthy food at a grab-and-go kiosk. Photo by Paul Frangipane

“Certainly Mayor Adams believes that we should be eating healthfully and it shouldn’t be hard,” said Kate MacKenzie, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy. “What better place to be able to pop up and attract people in a grab and go way, with a kiosk at a very fair price. And what is particularly exciting about this I have to say is not just the convenience and the healthfulness of the food, but the way in which it’s done, the social enterprise of good food jobs is essential.”

The Doe Fund’s program participants also cooked hundreds of pounds of turkey, veggies and pies to feed trainees at its transitional housing residences on Thanksgiving.