It’s no question that restaurants, grocery stores, food programs, and the people who rely on them have suffered greatly throughout the pandemic. On top of these struggles, Asian communities in particular have faced horrific racism, hate, and violence. Realizing how isolating this must be for the elderly members of their community, Moonlynn Tsai and her partner Yin Chang stepped up to help.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, their organization Heart of Dinner has donated over 65,000 hot meals, groceries, and care packages to NYC’s elderly Asian population. “With food, we have this tool to show our elderly that the community is here,” says Chang. “That even amongst all of this devastating news, there’s still hope.”
Heart of Dinner began as a supper club. “Really the crux of it was to “provide a space for people who feel alone and lonely.” says Chang. But when the pandemic hit, the two quickly pivoted their supper club to a food donation service for Asian senior citizens, with Chang, Tsai, volunteers, and partner businesses — such as Cervo’s and Partybus Bakeshop — supplying, cooking, and packing hundreds of meals out of rotating kitchen spaces.
“For the foods that we and our restaurant partners are cooking every week, we like to ask that they make a meal that reminds you of your grandparents, or that your grandparents made you growing up,” says Tsai, iterating the importance of nourishing the elderly with familiar, comforting flavors.
Tsai also speaks on the difficulties of coming out to her family and in the Asian community. “Growing up, being closeted for a really really long time, it was almost like, you didn’t tell your family to save them face,” she explains. After being opening up about her relationship with Chang in an article about Heart of Dinner, she wondered and feared how it would impact the community she was working so hard to help. “One of our elderly read it, and thanked us so much, saying, ‘Had it not been for you both coming together, I don’t know what would have happened,’” recalled Chang.
The two credit much of Heart of Dinner’s success with how well they work together. “Because we’ve been together for so long, we understand each other’s personalities, the strengths, the weaknesses, and how to compliment each other,” says Tsai.
“I’m so grateful to have Moonlynn by my side to do this work,” says Chang. “And I wouldn’t have imagined anyone else to do this work with. I’m very lucky.”