About six weeks ago, as New York City shut down against the coronavirus outbreak, April Tam Smith ’10 and Graham Smith ’21 closed their restaurant, P.S. Kitchen, not knowing when they might reopen for business. Smith, a member of the CBS EMBA Friday-Saturday Class of 2021, mentioned this in a Zoom meeting with his learning group, expressing concern for P.S. Kitchen’s workers.
Little did the Smiths realize they were launching an effort that would bring together hundreds of EMBA students, along with alumni and a well-known CBS food entrepreneur, to feed thousands of healthcare workers across the city during the pandemic’s toughest days.
First, Graham’s classmate, John Bolton ’21, suggested posting about it on the class Slack channel, imagining that others would want to help the workers at the popular Midtown Manhattan vegan eatery, a social enterprise that aims to give second chances to formerly incarcerated people. The message caught the attention of Susan Griffin ’21, who suggested broadening the effort to feed healthcare workers. She created a GoFundMe page for the restaurant and shared it with the entire class.
Donations poured in. “The idea of employing those who need a second chance seemed to really resonate with people,” says April. Soon, the restaurant had raised enough to bring back furloughed employees to box up meals of vegan chicken and burgers, orzo salad, and roasted vegetables. April reached out to her EMBA classmate Klaus Kjaer-Pedersen ’10, an anesthesiologist at Weill Cornell Medicine, who arranged for P.S. Kitchen to box up 200 meals to feed frontline healthcare workers.
Then, April Smith reached out to Ethan Brown ’08, founder and CEO of Beyond Meat, which makes popular plant-based burgers, sausages, and more. “We were on the CBS Bizcast together, and P.S. Kitchen has been selling the Beyond Burger since day one,” she says. “When I reached out they were so kind and wrote back within hours saying, ‘We’re in!’ then sent us a significant amount of product.”
Brown sent P.S. Kitchen Beyond Burgers as part of Beyond Meat’s Feed a Million + pledge, an initiative launched to donate and distribute more than a million Beyond Burgers to feed frontline healthcare workers as well as those in need. Brown says that Beyond Meat’s goal has always been to use food as a vehicle for change, and with this donation, the company can help ensure those in need have access to good, nourishing meals at no cost.
"I was pleased to partner with my friend and fellow CBS alum April Tam Smith, an entrepreneur I have great respect for, and her business, P.S. Kitchen, to ensure people have access to delicious and nourishing meals,” says Brown. “I hope this effort makes a contribution to well-being as we together confront this pandemic."
The initiative has continued to gain steam. As of May 1, P.S. Kitchen has donated 2,500 meals to hospitals around the city, including Mt. Sinai Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, and Lenox Hill Hospital. Kelly Fox '21, director of partnerships at home-services provider Handy, has donated the services of several delivery drivers to distribute the meals. Graham Smith estimates that about 80 percent of his EMBA class has donated, with one anonymous donor from his class even providing $15,000 in matching funds.
“I really felt a solidarity with my team,” says Graham Smith. “The Columbia network just has so many resources, skills, and gifts, and it was amazing to watch. I was so grateful for their support.”
April says that she is grateful for everyone who has been generous with their resources, network, time, and food. “Generosity begets generosity,” she says. “I’ve always known that, and I’m seeing it even more now. These days all of us want to give, and I love seeing how… humanity and generosity have really come shining through in all of this.”