On May 29, Tania Maree Giordani ‘16 started NourishNYC, an organization which provides supplies and financial support to activists in New York City. The organization supports protestors at demonstrations by passing out supply kits.
The protests and demonstrations erupted in late May after the death of George Floyd. Black Lives Matter protests have continued for months since. These protests are happening during the current COVID-19 pandemic, and many protesters are not wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks, or physically distancing.
Giordani wanted to help protestors after attending the protests herself.
“After going to the first protest, I realized I shared my water bottle with three people, and a lot of us had to take off our masks,” Giordani said. “They became useless because they became really sweaty. And I was thinking, ‘We are in the middle of COVID-19. We are in the middle of a pandemic. We need to get people PPE because the protests aren’t gonna stop. People aren’t gonna stop.’”
In the first three days, NourishNYC received more than $5,000 and gave the money to activists. NourishNYC accepts donations through PayPal and Cash App and has received over $100,000 in donations. These donations are being used to provide funds and buy PPE, first aid supplies, water, and snacks.
The organization has distributed over 6,000 food and supply kits and used over $50,000 to purchase supplies and provide cash assistance to protestors who need transportation and bail funds.
It isn’t just Giordani working on NourishNYC. The organization has a six person team which organizes volunteers, events, and donations. Over 500 people have volunteered with them.
Puma Sanaa creates and distributes supply kits and snacks to protestors and homeless people.
“I chose to be a part of NourishNYC because prior to it, I’ve always done community work,” Sanaa said. “And I believe feeding, protecting and nurturing my people is most important, being as though certain communities and groups are purposely deprived of resources because of various racial factors.”
NourishNYC supports various demonstrations around New York including protests, self defense classes, hunger strikes, and vigils. Event organizers can fill out a form to request supply kits, snacks, drinks, and hot meals. Giordani works on supporting organizations that align with her own values and ensures that NourishNYC is “centering disabled folks, trans folks, queer folks, and womxn in everything that they do.”
“NourishNYC is important to me because it aligns with my beliefs and morals,” Sanaa said. “I don’t ever see myself working with an organization that does not center all Black folk, including LGBTQ+ Black people.”
Team members and volunteers arrive at demonstrations early to hand out supplies and food. Protestors can grab what they need before the protest. During protests, NourishNYC volunteers march with the protestors and hand out additional snacks and supply packs, which are plastic sandwich bags that include a mask, gloves, hand sanitizer, earplugs, bandaids, snacks, baby wipes, and cold packs.
Protestors can also request cash grants up to $50. Organizations and protestors request a grant from NourishNYC using a Google Form from their website or Instagram. More than $50 can be requested by emailing them. NourishNYC distributes the grants through Venmo and Cash App.
Giordani is working to implement a cycle system for grants to avoid limits from the apps used to distribute money. There will be a bi-weekly process where applications will be open for a week. The following week will be used to process the applications and distribute the money.
Giordani’s Instagram gained over 6000 followers in the weeks following the start of NourishNYC.
“I’m totally overwhelmed by it all in the best way,” Giordani said. “Nourish has been shared to the point that it’s probably been at least a month since I’ve gone to a demonstration without somebody that I didn’t know coming up to say hello because they recognize me.”
NourishNYC now packages supply kits in their depot. The depot is located in Greenwich Village in Lower Manhattan. The space was donated by Babycastles, a collective which amplifies diverse voices through videogame, art, and media exhibits. The depot opened on June 5 and accepts drop offs and pick ups of supplies. NourishNYC has received donations from companies such as Goop and Dr. Bronner’s.
“A day at our depot typically looks like us coming in at 12 and checking the calendar as soon as we walk in to see what events or protest we need to make drop offs to, if any,” Sanaa said.
Volunteers are organized in advance to drop off supply kits, and Sanaa will drop off any that still need to be dropped off. The team works on organizing donations and making supply kits and spends five to six hours a day from Sunday to Wednesday.
Omari Wyands, the depot manager, began working with NourishNYC in early June. Giordani had reached out to him after he organized a protest.
“She’s a great boss who cares about her team,” Wyands said. “She makes sure we eat and get home safe and are in the right state of mind. She’s honestly more of a team member than a boss to be real.”
Giordani doesn’t follow a strict schedule for her work with NourishNYC, The Supper Collective NYC, another organization she directs, and Mil Mundos Books, a bookstore she helps run. Though usually she “goes with the flow,” Giordani has admin and ground days for NourishNYC and The Supper Collective NYC. On an admin day, she takes calls, emails, and organizes the NourishNYC and The Supper Collective NYC teams. Giordani also works on strategizing volunteers, evaluating finances, and asking for support. On ground days, she schedules volunteers and drop offs.
“I’m getting to live my dream at 22, and I haven’t even graduated college,” Giordani said. “I didn’t think that I would get to do what I’m doing for my community for another 10 years, so I think that gets me going.”
“NourishNYC is important to me not only because we provide support to protestors but we also provide food to the homeless in the neighborhood which we call Homie Packs,” Wyands said.
Growing up, Giordani’s mom worked in advocacy for equity and public education and Giordani and her sister would go to work with her mom.
“This is the work I’ve wanted to do my entire life, the work I’ve done my entire life,” Giordani said. “I think just getting to see the way that my mom gives to people and has always given to our community has really instilled that in me. I’m so blessed to be able to pour into people the way that I’ve been poured into.”
Giordani and her team are not planning on stopping NourishNYC’s work.
“My real dream is for NourishNYC to become obsolete, but that’s probably not gonna happen anytime soon,” Giordani said. “I just hope that we can become a mainstay in the community. And I hope that we can continue to provide people and also Supper Collective NYC. I hope that with both organizations we can continue to just meet the community’s needs and be flexible to change what we do in order to meet those ever changing needs.”
This story was originally published on The Weekly on September 7, 2020.