Sometimes you just give back. New York City born Michael Diamond, a.k.a. Mike D of the hip hop group Beastie Boys, found that the quickest and most effective way to give back and bring about a little hope after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy was through food. Hot food. Free food. So that's what he did.
Good.com sat down with the hip hop drummer and singer and he told them how Rockaway Plate Lunch came about.
Mike D and a friend, restauranteur Robert McKinley (the Felice wine bars in New York City), took a trip out to Rockaway Beach right after Hurricane Sandy tore through the area.
"So we loaded up Rob’s car to the roof," he recalled, "and brought them out to Rockaway Surf Club. We saw right away all these people living without any power, without any businesses being open, and therefore, no food. We saw the immediate need for warm food, but we didn’t have time to put together a long-term cohesive plan, we just had to react quickly."
They got together with McKinley's contacts in the restaurant business and began getting volunteers and food out to the devastated area. But they soon realized that it wasn't enough fast enough.
"But we quickly saw," he said, "to get a lot of people fed and to have something warm we needed a truck."
With the help of New York restaurants, Mike D and McKinley were able to organize a food truck complete with chefs and people who simply wanted to help.
What were they serving? Mike D noted that they wanted to give the people something warm and nutritious, yet familiar, so the menu consisted primarily of a "hearty meal of chicken, beans, rice and vegetables."
It has been over five months since Hurricane Sandy slammed into the eastern seaboard at Atlantic City, New Jersey, shut down New York City's subway system, airports, bridges, and tunnels. All told, damages to various areas affected in some 24 states amounted to over $71 billion. Rockaway Beach, located in Queens, New York City, on Long Island, was hit especially hard. Power was out for days; homes and buildings were destroyed in vast numbers. Local businesses were shut down, some to never open again.
But Mike D hopes that the free food truck will provide something of an inspirational jump start to the area. To date, the truck has plated over 19,000 meals and counting. But what the Beastie Boys showman wants to do is transition the free food truck into a real business, charging people for food and contributing to and revitalizing the local economy.
But not for himself or his friend, Rob McKinley. "So we’re trying to switch the truck over from giving away food, to charging for food but having it become staffed, run and operated on every level by citizens of the Rockaways. We’ll keep the same restaurants that have been involved, but in a mentoring capacity."
With the help of millions of volunteers and hundreds of millions of dollars donated to the Red Cross and other charity organizations involved in the rebuilding efforts, Rockaway Beach, New York City, Atlantic City, and hundreds of other cities and towns hit by Hurricane Sandy will gradually but surely bounce back from the setback suffered in the wake of the superstorm. Homes will be rebuilt, as will businesses. And some, who might have been overwhelmed by the crush of events that came after Hurricane Sandy swept through, just might make a comeback because of an act of philanthropy from a guy who sings songs like "You Got To Fight For Your Right To Party."
Because sometimes the more serious fights -- like rebuilding -- begin with a helping hand -- and a warm meal.
(photo credit: Jim.henderson, Creative Commons)