JJ Johnson owns one of the best new restaurants in Harlem. FIELDTRIP (www.fieldtripnyc.com) is a "community based dining experience" all about rice. They use heirloom grains from all over the globe, with ethnically sourced veggies and proteins, to make damn good food. In two years, JJ has grown a simple concept into an inspiring business model. In March, this pandemic threatened to end his business, but this was not his biggest concern. JJ's wife is a nurse at Harlem Hospital.
She came home at midnight one night and asked if he had brought home anything to eat because she hadn't eaten all day. "And I was like, 'No. How didn't you eat? You left the house at like 10am,'" JJ says. She broke into tears, but managed to get out—"It's crazy. This Covid-19 stuff is crazy." A new business model was born.
On March 25th, JJ sent out forty meals to Harlem Hospital, which had shut down its concessions due to illness. He shared the gesture on Twitter and a few people offered to pay for meals the next day. This meant he could bring in two more of his team to help with the meals. People kept donating and JJ kept rehiring his staff. He now has 7 of his 10 person team back and the momentum is growing. Each meal bowl is $10. For every bowl purchased, customers have the option of donating a meal for $8. To date, they have received over $15,000 in donations.
Every dollar of this goes to a free meal, nothing taken out. That's 1,875 meals, primarily to health care workers. And customers now have a choice of hospitals to which to send meals. They've also teamed up with Harlem Grown to bring meals to local children's shelters. JJ himself has hand delivered meals to some of FIELDTRIPS's regular customers who aren't able to leave their homes, and once there, at times, helped out with a chore or two.
We are so inspired by JJ and his crew, and crazy happy to call them our neighbors. The restaurant was founded on the idea of community; their mission has been put to the test and they have gone above and beyond to stay true to it. And the Harlem community has responded in kind—supporting them and keeping this beloved local in business. It's cyclical. It's karma. It's how it's supposed to work. This is just one example of why we love Harlem. Please show them some love, share in the karma. Eating a bowl will give you the love back ten-fold.
NYC is flooded with stories like this. It's important for these stories to get out there so we know where to eat and who to support. Chances are if a business is caring for their community, they are also using safe practices to get the food to their customers. These are the businesses we want to survive and we need to help them. Have a favorite local who needs some support? Tell us in the comments or post a pic with our hashtag #livablenyc and we'll send some love their way. Let's keep the good karma going! Stay safe everybody!