New York-based film industry caterer Felipe Avalos recently pivoted his successful business to make vegan meals for NYC first responders at seven of the city’s hardest-hit hospitals and families in need in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this year, when many of New York’s citizens were leaving the area because of the surge in COVID-19 cases, Avalos and his wife and 13-year-old son decided to stay to help. They found out that frontline workers were in need of individual boxed lunches to eat during their limited breaks, and Avalos was convinced by a friend, Ray Ippolito, that the meals should be vegan. “I was not operating a vegan kitchen, my catering company was not exclusively vegan, and at home, despite being mostly vegetarian, we were not vegans,” Avalos told VegNews. “However, this crisis and pandemic called for a flip of a switch and moving forward called for radical change.” 

Thus far, Avalos and his family have made and delivered more than 4,000 meals, such as raw vegan cream penne pasta with slow-roasted tomatoes; empanadas with mixed greens; falafel, hummus, and tahini wraps; vegan Reuben sandwiches; and burritos with saffron rice, black beans, sauteed vegetables, pico de gallo, and guacamole. Avalos has been able to continue his efforts with the help of GoFundMe and Facebook fundraising campaigns, which raised a total of $23,800, along with product donations from vegan companies such as Tofurky, Follow Your Heart, and Miyoko’s Creamery

“Today, at this very moment, NYC is aiming to deliver 1.5 million meals per day without a plant-based initiative,” Avalos said. “It’s as if they aren’t reading the writing on the wall that today is no longer fine print but spray-painted on the wall in big, bold script, read aloud with a bullhorn. You don’t need to be a vegan to drink the Kool-Aid anymore; you just need to trust science and trust facts.” Avalos pointed out that organization Food For America partnered with chef José Andrés to raise $27 million to deliver meals, many made with animal products. “They are proliferating meals with ingredients that have led us to this very pandemic,” Avalos said. “Our goal is to deliver plant-based meals to first responders and families who have been impacted financially due to this pandemic and convert them, one omnivore at a time.”

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