What to Know
- Homecoming NYC, a community organization based in Queens, seeks to provide food security and relief to local restaurants through restaurant crawls.
- Bryan Lozano created the organization in an effort to support Queens residents who experienced financial difficulties brought on by COVID-19.
- The organization recently partnered with On Running and Citi Bike to explore the Woodside, Sunnyside, and Astoria neighborhoods on bike.
Bryan Lozano’s love for Queens began during his childhood when he lived in Elmhurst, playing cricket and mahjong with other kids from his neighborhood. As he grew older, Lozano would relocate to different neighborhoods in Queens, but always called Elmhurst home.
When COVID-19 struck and Elmhurst became a hot spot in the country, Lozano (no relation to this article's writer) knew it was time to return. After witnessing the community he grew up in burdened by financial hardships brought by the pandemic, Lozano felt compelled to ground his roots and give back the best way he knew how: through food.
Lozano founded Homecoming NYC, a community organization working to support local restaurants and provide food security through restaurant crawls. Participants purchase tickets to attend the crawls, and that money is then donated to food banks and restaurants.
“Homecoming at first was always an opportunity to give back to the neighborhood,” said Lozano. “But when we thought about it, restaurants were really struggling and food hardship became a really big issue in the neighborhood and we wanted to do something that connects the two things together.
“Homecoming ultimately became a love letter to the neighborhoods that we’re from and an opportunity to support restaurants that have been staples in neighborhoods but at the same time support organizations who are working to fight food insecurity.”
During the crawls, members of the Homecoming NYC organization lead participants around a neighborhood visiting prominent restaurants in the community, like the Arepa Lady, meet the owners and try their food. According to Lozano, the organization always includes a 20% tip and opts for take-out, so the tours don’t impede on the restaurant’s operations.
“Homecoming has introduced Indonesian Food and Indo Java to the world,” said Anastasia Dewi Tjahjadi, owner of Indo Java Groceries, an Indonesian grocery store that was one of the locations that Homecoming included in their Elmhurst food crawl.
Since the organization’s founding in May, Lozano and his team have led two food crawls in Jackson Heights and Elmhurst, which has raised $5,000 in additional revenue for restaurants.
In October, the organization partnered with On Running, Moma PS1, and Citi Bike to conduct a bike tour through various neighborhoods in Queens. Social media mogul and producer, Jaeki Cho, led the tour making stops at various locations to highlight issues impacting residents in the community.
Restaurants across New York City have been negatively impacted due to the pandemic, which saw many locations close due to lack of government aid or a drastic dip in business due to stay-at home orders or government aid.
As for the food, participants visited Bolivian Llama Party for salteñas, a baked Bolivian empanada filled with stew, and Renee’s Kitchenette for traditional Filipino food.
“We saw what [Homecoming NYC] was doing and how they’re giving back to communities and we wanted to be a part of it,” said Errrol Dizon, one of the owner’s at Renee’s Kitchenette.
In addition to supporting restaurants, Homecoming NYC works with community food banks to address food insecurity in Queens, another prominent issue that worsened during the pandemic. The organization donates money, raised from restaurant crawl tickets, to neighboring food banks, like New Life, which received enough money to provide over 800 meals to those in need.
“We appreciate their donation,” said Jeff Kolsch, director of New Life. “They did a great thing in a unique way.”
Lozano and his team intend on launching a community fridge later this year in Woodside.
Homecoming NYC is currently scheduling their next restaurant crawl, but Lozano hopes that participants will return to these communities.
“These are really local neighborhoods that often people don’t get a chance to go to,” said Lozano. “This is the first time a lot of people have come to Elmhurst, and that’s important for us because we want people to build a relationship and come back here.”