Our History: Part 1 “You’ve never heard of Bob White’s?!”
For The Love of Food
In the Spring of 2018, Matt James was leaving his favorite Lower East Side eatery when he encountered a group of young kids clustered on the corner of 6th Street and Avenue C. After being teased in passing about how “ashy” his ankles were, he paused and engaged the party. Over the course of a short conversation, he learned that they attended a local elementary school and lived in the neighborhood. He tried to connect with them by asking what they thought about the local restaurants, though they initially seemed confused by his question – they didn’t know anything about them! Astonished that these kids had not tried Bob White’s or any of the other local staples that he loved, he reached out to Mrs. Ramos at Public School (P.S.) 188 with the simple idea of introducing kids to the delicious food that was right around them.
Connecting the Dots
This connection to P.S. 188 got Matt more involved in the community, where he committed himself to learning the incredible stories of local restaurant owners. At the same time, he engaged with the students at P.S. 188 who seemed to be facing challenges of their own. Mrs. Ramos explained to him that over 50% of the students at her school were homeless - they were facing financial, familial, and social hardships that limited their ability to do things as simple as get a quick meal from the local eateries. When Mrs. Ramos heard Matt’s idea, she jumped at the opportunity and connected all the dots for the first tour.
First, But Definitely Not the Last
This first tour was led by best friends Matt James and Tyler Cameron. This was initially framed as a simple, fun afternoon with the kids, but by the end of the tour Matt & Tyler both realized something. The kids were not only learning about different foods, but they were having a blast meeting these business owners, chefs, leaders, and role models. For weeks after the tour, the teachers reached out to Matt and commented on the strong impacts that this experience had on their students. Matt and Tyler knew they had something special on their hands. With that, ABC Food Tours was born.
Stay tuned for part two to learn about how the Young Explorers food program was born and the effect it began to have on the Lower East Side community.