Unique fundraiser held for Flushing, Queens food pantry in New York

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Chef Surbhi Sahni poses with the ingredients need to make a simple salad from grocery bags distributed by the South Asian Council for Social Services, as part of a fundraising campaign for the food pantry. Photo: courtesy Tagmo Kitchen/SACSS

The South Asian Council for Social Services, SACSS, a Queens, N.Y.-based non-profit, is holding a weeklong #FoodYouWant campaign to raise money for rising number of people needing the food that it supplies through its pantry.

The campaign is unique in that it highlights South Asian ingredients and involves an Indian-American chef who shows how supplies from the food pantry can be used to make delicious dishes. The goal is to raise at least $7,000, a press release from SACSS said.

Prior to COVID-19, SACSS’s food pantry served more than  5,970 individuals annually. Today, the food pantry — which provides curbside pick-up — feeds between 4,000-5,000 individuals (or 1,200 families) each week, on average. With the numbers rising weekly, SACSS is raising awareness and funds through this online campaign #FoodYouWant.

Well-known Chef Surbhi Sahni, who is also from Queens and is the founder of Tagmo Treats which opened Sept. 17, 2021, was filmed while producing one such dish, and her video is being broadcast for a week to raise funds for SCASS’s food pantry.

On Thursday, September 16, at 12 PM, Sahni went live on Facebook to drum up the salad (See Box for Recipe) and hopefully, support from the community.

“It went well,” Sahni told Desi Talk. “I am lucky and blessed to do what I do,” said the well-known chef who was born and brought up in Delhi, and brought her love of art to her cooking.

Tagmo Treats bills itself as a place where diners can try food and desserts in regional flavors from across India prepared in small batches. She partnered with SACSS to create a Chickpea Salad that combines what families find in their SACSS grocery bags with fresh vegetables, fruits, staples like lentils, and spices. The recipe showcases how simple ingredients can become a healthy, nutritious and delicious dish, the press release said.

“The campaign is going well, but this is just the first time we are trying something like this,” SACSS Executive Director Sudha Acharya told Desi Talk. “People have shown a willingness to help and we will do more such shows in the future.”

In 2016, SACSS launched the first food pantry featuring culturally appropriate food for its largely South Asian immigrant community.

“For many immigrants, having access to food that is familiar and appropriate to their cultures can be a challenge. But everyone deserves food that they’d want to eat,” Acharya is quoted saying in the press release, adding, “Our food pantry is a way to provide such culturally palatable and appropriate food and honor the dignity of people who may not have easy access to such food.”

Funds raised through the #FoodYouWant campaign will support SACSS’s expansion of its food pantry service to two days/week (instead of one) and thus reduce long wait times in lines, organizers say.

The pantry now offers two different types of grocery bags that are appropriate to the wide range of immigrant community members who visit the pantry.

In 2020, which turned out to be an extraordinary year, SACSS served more than 30,000 people struggling to feed their families, pay their bills, stay healthy, and survive. For more information,  contact sacss@sacssny.org or call (201) 920-1976, and visit www.sacssny.networkforgood.com/

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