Located inside The Historic Emanuel AME Church, Refettorio Harlem is a community center reviving decades of civic engagement, food recovery and assistance, and education of the arts through cultural programming.  Our mission nourishes those unsheltered, isolated or marginalized, living or transitioning among Upper Manhattan through sustainable food assistance initiatives that aim to improve the health and socioeconomic opportunities that positively shift cultural mobility.  Food for Soul’s guiding principles: Value of Hospitality, Power of Beauty and Quality of Ideas have informed the design, services and programs creating a place in which all will feel welcome with dignity and empathy to care for and engage in creating an inclusive and resilient community.  In collaboration with community partners, guest chefs, designers and artists, Refettorio Harlem will be open to events, workshops and culinary experiences that celebrate the cultural history, diversity, collective stories and contemporary innovations of it’s vibrant neighborhoods.


"Imagine a jam session where the most amazing artists are performing, all together, to lift up the souls. What we’re doing in Harlem is exactly the same, a song of collaboration which is unifying Food for Soul efforts and our partners to take action. We’re building our new Refettorios walls, but we cannot stand aside in a moment when communities need the most."

Massimo Bottura
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Collaborating partners


Food for Soul is a non-profit organization founded by chef Massimo Bottura and Lara Gilmore to empower local communities to reduce food waste and support social inclusion. By enabling the transformation of people, places and food, Food for Soul builds a culture of value that strengthens community resilience, opens opportunities for social and economic mobility and builds healthier and more equitable food systems.

Emanuel harlem-church-refettorio

The Historic Emanuel, AME Church is a 100 year old heritage property situated on 119th historical street with a devoted neighborhood block association and community.  The location has a long history in providing nourishment, education and community activism through a wide range of programming including, a food pantry, community social hall, music and arts center and base for women’s empowerment.  The Refettorio Harlem will revive these essential services through a new model that enables intergenerational sharing, support for youth and expands services for families and children.  


Program Highlights

Refettorio Harlem’s anchor program will provide in-kind daily meals, 5 days per week, that take an active role in creating a healthier more equitable food system while reducing local and regional food waste and loss.  Reclaimed imperfect and surplus ingredients will be transformed into nourishing meals served with hospitality around the table to approximately 100 guests each day.  As we continue to work safely protecting guests against COVID, Food assistance will be provided  through pick up or delivery supporting food sufficiency of neighbors in conjunction with referral organizations.  Our impact is measured by the health outcomes, social and economic well-being our programs can help to both introduce and stabilize.

Refettorio Harlems programs will evolve to include culinary and food systems apprenticeships, internships and educational workshops expanding food, arts, financial and environmental literacy. With a vision to transform lives and rebuild communities, Refettorio programs will serve the greater Harlem community offering through food events, cultural programming and volunteer opportunities that promote social cohesion, food sovereignty and justice.

"Before you can feed someone's spirit, you must feed their stomach."

Reverend Dr. Kahli C. Mootoo, Emanuel African Methodist Episcoal Church

Who we serve

Refettorio Harlem will support individuals most at risk or experiencing food insecurity, poverty, isolation, homelesses and marginalization, together with those facing social vulnerability who are not always seen.  Our aim is to offer basic necessities with dignity and respect by investing in those who are in need of social and economic capital to sustain well being and livelihood while improving the health of people and the planet.

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Development Programs

The project will steward initiatives of the 400 Foundation, a moral movement co-founded by The Historic EAME Pastor Rev. Dr. Kahli C. Mootoo, to engage in the rebuilding of African American communities through activities that promote livelihood, engage youth and bridge wealth and economic opportunities.  


Our Community Meal Partners

Refettorio Harlem provides meals and food assistance 6 days a week to individuals, families and veteran services across Harlem in collaboration with community based organizations dedicated to providing supportive health, shelter, education and workforce placement services for those in need.  A few of our service partners include  Pillars, Dunlevy-Milbank Center-Children’s Aid, African Services Committee No Women Left Behind, Food Faith Ministries and YAYB and East Harlem NYCHA residences, Community meals will not only provide nourishment for those most socially vulnerable, it offers mentor and volunteer opportunities, youth engagement experiences and empowers small business recovery for four chef’s professional livelihood.

A spotlight on our Food Model and Meals

Led by Refettorio Culinary Manager Chef Elizabeth Richards and the HBK’s Chefs Collective members, all Harlem-based MWBE owners, the culinary teams together bring a diverse skill set and experience to create meal planning and recipes that are nutritious, seasonally balanced and eco-friendly for the environment. Dishes are flavorful reflecting vegetable-forward Jamaican food, Boricua Geechee cuisine, Mediterranean soul food, and southern classics.  The Refettorio will expand the scope of it’s food recovery efforts to include zero waste streams, composting, upcycling while actively reducing food loss from the supply chain working with local and regional farms, suppliers and distributors mission aligned to ensure no food is left behind.  These actions will pave the way to expand the Refettorio food social enterprise opportunities to generate revenue and demonstrate the economic value of food and our food system.