Refettorio Harlem Mission

Located at The Historic Emanuel AME Church, representing decades of civic engagement, education, art, music and cultural programming,  Refettorio Harlem will offer a sense of belonging, compassion and opportunity.  Our mission is culturally driven to strengthen the social ecosystem through our guiding principles Value of Hospitality, Power of Beauty and Quality of Ideas.  By feeding the body and soul with grace and dignity and encouraging inclusivity, we aim to bridge socioeconomic opportunities and shift cultural mobility for vulnerable populations living or transitioning among Harlem’s neighborhoods.  Our food-focused approach will empower a sense of responsibility and knowledge to take action around critical issues of food sustainability and security.  By promoting a sense of self-worth, purpose and social cohesion in each of our program services we will foster outcomes and impact that improve social and economic capital for all.  The space will reflect local design and artist representation that offers an uplifting experience and shines light on the often invisible potential around us.

"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
  • Give your time

    Volunteers help us ensure our programs and services meet the needs of the community.  Whether you love food, are dedicated to sustainability or simply want to give back, we welcome you to join us.

  • Support us

    Help Refettorio Harlem to build a culture in which the local community feels a sense of belonging, where no individual or food is left behind.


Partner spotlight


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.


YAYB, headquartered in East Harlem, is dedicated to putting young adults in New York City aged 17-24 on the path to self-empowerment. It provides a program that includes job skills training, job placement services, high school equivalency certification, connection to support services and a safe environment where students are positively encouraged to become leaders in their communities.

Program Highlights

Refettorio Harlem’s anchor program will provide in-kind daily meals that take an active role in creating a healthier more equitable food system while reducing local and regional food waste and loss.  Ingredients will be transformed into nourishing meals to support the food sufficiency of neighbors, supporting health outcomes and social and economic stability.   YAYB’s Good Food Jobs Training Program will be housed in Refettorio Harlem whereby participants will undertake training in both the back and front of house operations, learn culinary skills and gain experience in the kitchen.  The project will also be site to internships for those interested in pursuing work placement in food sustainability and hospitality career paths that seek to be part of healthier innovations in the food industry.  With a vision to transform lives and rebuild communities, Refettorio programs will embrace and serve the greater Harlem community offering food education initiatives, cultural programming, events and volunteer opportunities that promote social cohesion through a just food system.

"The opportunity to serve and support community members in need is at the core of why YAYB exists. Our students and staff are excited that we get to bring this element of our work into the Refettorio Harlem initiative.”

Robert Taylor

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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Our Community meals

The Refettorio is about strengthening the social ecosystem at a time when the global pandemic continues to affect the basic necessities we all need to live well.   In collaboration with local partners, Hot Bread Kitchen and YAYB, we can bridge these needs while also forging new relationships, integrating services to strengthen the resilience of each individual and organization across the community.  Each community organization plays an essential role in ensuring we build back better and pave the way for a brighter future. 

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Because behind every meal there is something else


Giving Now

Despite the global crisis, in a time when action is needed for those who can give, Refettorio will start serving the community not only providing nourishment for those most socially vulnerable but additionally support job training and workforce development programs for at-risk youth.

Our Community Meal Partners

Food for Soul’s operational partner Youth Action YouthBuild along with 400 Foundation will coordinate meals for delivery several days a week to offer a gesture of hospitality to those most socially vulnerable across Harlem neighborhoods.  A few of our service partners include  African Services No Women Left Behind, Food Faith Ministries and, East Harlem YAYB buildings and neighborhood shelters.  We will continue to expand out service network over the coming weeks to expand our gesture of hospitality throughout the season into the New Year.  Community meals will not only provide nourishment for those most socially vulnerable, it will  sustain culinary job training and apprenticeships for at-risk youth and secure workforce opportunities for those greatly affected in the food and hospitality sector.

Hot Bread Kitchen Collective

Hot Bread Kitchen’s Chef Collective is a group of small business owners that work together and with Hot Bread Kitchen to create meals with impact. Through generous donations, Hot Bread Kitchen funds up to 600 meals per week, each of which is designated to those in need. Hot Bread Kitchen is committed to providing relief to food insecure New Yorkers while, at the same time, promoting small business recovery.

Sustainable flavors

The Chefs Collective members are Harlem-based MWBE owners who make a diverse variety of food: vegetable-forward Jamaican food, Boricua Geechee cuisine, Mediterranean soul food, and southern classics.  The Refettorio will expand the scope of food recovery efforts taking action not only to recover food surplus but to actively reduce food waste from the supply chain working in tandem with local and regional farms, suppliers and distributors mission aligned to ensure no food is left behind.