Nothing brings a community together like good food – and with up to 50 of the most acclaimed and diverse restaurants in New York City, Taste of the Lower East Side does it best. Grand St. Settlement is proud to host an event celebrating food, the tie to its inherited traditions and cultures, the source of sustenance and the warmth that brings everyone to the table.
The group has been serving congregate meals for nearly 100 years and fighting to advocate for their neighbors to ensure that not only do they not go hungry, but that everyone has access to the kinds of nutritious and fresh food necessary to sustain a healthy life.
Over the past century, Grand St. Settlement has helped make the Lower East Side a community of possibility for families by giving them the skills and resources needed to engineer not only a life but also a future. Individuals from all walks of life and circumstances have been coming together for generations to improve the lives of their neighbors and in turn, themselves. Anyone who loves food or loves New York City can tell you that the rich history of the city is closely tied with its food, and the Lower East Side has long been a food Mecca for New Yorkers and world travelers alike. Food trucks and inventive kitchens have replaced the pushcarts and yodeling sidewalk vendors of yesteryears, and opportunities and innovation continue to accumulate on the streets that have long been the home of Katz Delicatessen, bastion of Jewish soul food, Russ and Daughters' herring, infamous since the Second World War, and the Essex Street Market, shaped by generations of immigrants. It follows that this tasting event is the City's most unique, as it brings together dishes crafted in various ethnic enclaves within the neighborhood and innovative culinary feats that defy efforts of classification by traditional standards.
Now in its 14th year, Taste of the Lower East Side has come a long way from its grassroots – but the enthusiasm and promise of dynamic potential surrounding the event remains unchanged. In 2000, a small cadre of dedicated Grand St. Settlement volunteer mentors banded together to raise more money and support for its most beloved programs: JUMP! (Juniors Undertaking Manhattan’s Possibilities!).
JUMP! works with youth ranging in age from 5 to 18 by matching them with young professionals who volunteer as their mentors. Together, the kids and mentors step out on an adventure each month; whether the trip is to a museum, Broadway show, wildlife refuge or to experience a city landmark, the experience is tied to academic or cultural enrichment and provides an experience to which these children would otherwise not have access. With a focus on exploration, preparing for success and instilling a love for life-long learning, JUMP! provides a sense of community and continuity that grows with participants over the course of their development while remaining a sort of home base and safe haven.
Today the funds raised at Taste of the Lower East Side are used to support the multiplicity of programs and services it offer to open possibilities for thousands of New Yorkers of all ages. TLES remains true to its founding principles: that neighbors working together to improve the lives and statuses of those less fortunate in their community not only serve those in need, but in turn improve their own quality of life and strengthen the fabric of the community. Over 14 years, TLES has brought together over 154 restaurants, 20,000 people, 200 community partners and hundreds of community volunteers all united in their desire to make the Lower East Side a community filled with possibilities for everyone.