An illustration of two younger adults sharing a bag of groceries with an older adult.
Illustration: Jin Xia for Heart of Dinner. (Courtesy Heart of Dinner)

How Heart of Dinner Provides Solace and Sustenance to New York’s Asian American Seniors

The nonprofit addresses food insecurity and isolation among the city’s elderly Asian American community.
By Aileen Kwun
April 3, 2021
2 minute read

One year on, the Covid-19 pandemic has stress-tested the vulnerabilities of our national safety net, with small businesses, elders, and low-income communities of color the hardest hit. In Chinatowns across the country, these issues have been compounded with a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes, fueled by xenophobic scapegoating for a virus that knows no borders or ethnicities.

Last spring, actor and producer Yin Chang, founder of the creative writing–focused website and podcast 88 Cups of Tea, began cooking and delivering hot lunches to vulnerable, homebound senior citizens in and around Manhattan’s Chinatown district. Together with her partner, chef and restaurateur Moonlynn Tsai, she soon refocused Heart of Dinner, an informal supper club the two started in 2015, as a nonprofit organization to widen their efforts to address food insecurity and isolation among the city’s elderly Asian American community.

The peer-to-peer-funded, grassroots network has now grown to more than 3,500 volunteers who hand-deliver care packages across New York to thousands of Asian American seniors in need. The weekly bundles include hot meals, fresh produce, pantry items, and specialty ingredients, all sourced from local businesses. To celebrate Lunar New Year, items included dishes by neighboring restaurants Van Da and Bessou, scallion buns from Partybus Bakeshop, and red envelopes for good fortune. While items vary from week to week, each package includes a personal note, handwritten by volunteers in Chinese, Korean, or Japanese (with an English translation)—a thoughtful touch that, short of a dinner party, offers the love and care of an extended family.