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Business as a Social Good: The Red Rabbit Model

Over the past few months, Red Rabbit has adapted our operations to serve people differently: we have opened up new kitchens, developed new products, and transformed our spaces to ensure we can work and cook food safely. But in a lot of ways, our purpose is no different than it was 15 years ago. We continue to be a business for social good. This concept has always shaped the way we work at Red Rabbit, but under COVID, it has felt like even more of a guiding principle than ever. 

Our definition of social good, is  taking care of our community through our business practices. We hire our staff, source our ingredients, serve our customers, and form our partnerships in a local and sustainable way, because we believe we are part of an ecosystem that thrives when we all work together - in support of each other.  In this  moment, when we are all searching for stories that bring us joy and inspiration, we wanted to take the opportunity to tell you a bit about how that philosophy works in practice.

Workplace Policies

team

Everything begins and ends with our people. We treat all our staff with the utmost respect, and encouragement. We hire from within our community in East Harlem & all around the city.  Our drivers are parents at the schools we serve; there are mother-daughter teams in our bakery. We provided extra sick time and flexible work schedules to all our team members ahead of city closures and committed to a rideshare program for our employees before the MTA committed to sanitizing the subways. We  have a dedicated budget for PPE, to ensure our staff feel safe at work, and on their commutes. But the safety of our people is essential to continuing to be able to serve our partners, and we did not stop at just basic PPE. Each person that enters our kitchen goes through rigorous "intake" procedures to ensure they are personally protected, the food is safe, and the rest of the team is safe.

Procurement

Our sourcing is the next piece of the puzzle. Our supply chain consists of other local vendors who are as vested in the success of our community as we are. Red Rabbit has always committed to buying local meat & produce, but the pandemic has really shone a spotlight on our direct impact on the food chain. You may have heard stories of farmers left with an abundance of crops they can’t sell.  We have partnered with City Harvest to turn pallets of cabbage into delicious coleslaw. Our new adult relief meals include bone-in chicken, utilizing a cut of meat we don’t normally buy. Our ability to transform raw ingredients into complete meals allows us to support local farmers, while feeding those in need in our communities, offsetting the impact that the closure of the hospitality industry has had on our food system. 

Service

Service has always been at the core of our mission, but a commitment to serving those in need right now has pushed us to keep reinventing ourselves, even as it feels hard. As we look around the city, and see hunger growing, we also see our neighbors & friends coming together, and their efforts are inspiring. Our mobile routes cover communities who have been hit hardest financially and physically. Our prices are heavily subsidized, and our partners’ funding allows us to provide real food free of cost to those who need it most.  An afterschool program partner in Queens raised money with a GoFundMe to fund extra  meals for those in need, and we matched those numbers. We have launched a free weekly zoom cooking course for all Red Rabbit families, because we believe that we have a responsibility to not only feed children nutrient-dense food, but also help them understand the food system. On a micro level, we are using social media as a tool to help connect parents with meals; on a macro level, we are advocating for better public health standards through our local elected officials. 

Partnerships

Finally, our approach during COVID and prior has been one of collaboration. We have formed community partnerships with organizations such as Heartshare, who help us deliver last mile service to families at NYCHA sites in Brooklyn. Our charter school sponsors have identified food pantries like West Harlem Group & health centers like NY Health+Hospitals Belvis Center, as central locations where they can distribute meals. Our partnership with World Central Kitchen & La Fonda Boriqua feeds 5,000 people a day. We have always been friendly with Wellness In The Schools & Green Top Farms, but when the pandemic hit, we banded together with our new friends ReThink Food to form a coalition called The Real Meal Collective. This coalition of restaurants, caterers & non-profits have all made it their mission to work together to provide scratch-made meals from real ingredients - providing essential nutrients to communities who are already suffering from diet-related disease. These partnerships have and will continue to allow us to be part of a larger service landscape which caters to the evolving needs of the most vulnerable among us. 

Food Justice is social justice. As we see hunger grow around us in this city, our commitment to increasing access to healthy meals has expanded and transformed to accommodate not just children, but anyone struggling to fund their next meal. We are certain that this was only possible because of our socially-minded business model that puts mission before anything, and people before profit. Our impact is compounded by our incredible partners, and we are able to serve in a sustainable manner, allowing families to see beyond the immediacy of today and look ahead towards the material improvement in their mental, social and physical health.

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