At the top of the month, eight southeast Queens teens began the “Senior Deliveries and Culinary Program,” which provides an opportunity for the community’s young people to gain professional skills while delivering nutritious food to area seniors.
Each Wednesday, participants prepare 140 healthy meals in a state-of-the-art teaching kitchen at Forestdale in Forest Hills. The next day, the teens distribute their culinary creations to seniors in Rochdale Village and surrounding buildings.
Fresh ingredients, including 40 pounds of chicken, 25 pounds of rice and 15 pounds of produce, are donated weekly by Kommissary LIC, a local commercial kitchen.
On Fridays, the youth and their families also meet remotely to discuss their experiences and to hear from guest speakers.
The program is the brainchild of 100 Suits for 100 Men founder Kevin Livingston, and is designed to help students develop culinary skills, as well as teach team building, financial literacy, time management and organizational skills.
“We are very excited to have this great partnership, but most of all provide opportunities for our young people in our community,” said Livingston. “This is a clear example of the community creating its own opportunities, and that’s what we’ve done here with our partners. Teamwork makes the dream work.”
The program is financially supported by the Office of the Queens Borough President, Patrick B. Jenkins & Associates, and Feel Beauty Supply in Jamaica, with additional funds, as well as PPE, coming from Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp.
Acting Borough President Sharon Lee, alongside Livingston and other community leaders, officially launched the program last week outside Rochdale Village. Many emphasized the importance of youth engagement initiatives in communities that struggle with gun violence.
“This is transformational when you talk about how do you change lives, how do you inspire young people to stay out of trouble,” said Councilman Donovan Richards, current frontrunner in the Democratic primary for borough president.
“Everyone raises the question of how do you stop the shootings," he added. “You invest in young people, it's that simple. That is prevention.”
Following relentless advocacy by parents, students and educators, the city budgeted funds for a Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) after Mayor Bill de Blasio initially suspended the citywide initiative back in April citing public health concerns.
Scheduled to begin on July 27, Summer Bridge will be distinct from the traditional SYEP programs held annually. The program has been shifted to a virtual format, and condensed to a five-week period.
Nearly 35,000 young people across the city will use time off from school for civic engagement as they earn stipends ranging from $700 to $1,000.
“Restoring the Summer Youth Employment Program was an absolute must for the City Council this year,” said Speaker Corey Johnson in a statement. “This program is a lifeline for so many New York City children, and its impact can last a lifetime.”