Food For Good
Food may be at the center of our social lives, but when combined with philanthropic efforts, it can be a real catalyst for change for our community.
One of the traditions that is most often passed through generations is cooking. That’s what Srirupa Dasgupta and Christina Maldonado realized while trying to figure out how they could start employing refugees. With tons of knowledge about the foods of their home countries but other barriers to workforce entry, they realized they would be perfectly suited to work in the kitchen of an ethnic restaurant – and that’s how Upohar was born.
Literally translating to “gift,” Srirupa and Christina’s restaurant has been just that to the community of Lancaster. The New Holland Ave. staple serves vegetarian food from all over the world, as well as authentic Puerto Rican food at Cristina’s Criollo, their sister business. They also run a catering company. The individuals that they employ are often newly arrived refugees, or those who are held back by issues like language barriers. To get on a path toward economic self-sufficiency, the begin working at Upohar.
Srirupa says that her proudest moment in running her business thus far is the success she’s seen from her first batch of employees, citing that one was able to save enough money to reunite with her family, another became a first time homeowner, and another completed her coursework at HACC and became a teacher.
A little farther uptown, you’ll find Silantra Asian Kitchen, the Asian street food spot that serves made-from-scratch scallion pancake wraps, rice bowls, and salad bowls filled with fresh protein and vegetable options all drizzled with homemade sauces. Offering sides and a selection of craft beers, Silantra is the perfect lunch and dinner spot.
However, owners Sam and Cindy Guo say that their mission is far beyond just trying to sustain a thriving business – they want to give back to their community as well. They say that their social mission is to “eat good, do good and feel good,” to serve fresh food, help others lead healthy lives, and to make an impact and help the community.” They do this by donating all of their tips to local nonprofits, selecting one each month to make a donation to, as well as sourcing their food locally. They are hoping to start growing their own food soon, and are looking into opening more locations.
New on the scene is also Lancaster Fellow Foodies, the meal service company that aims to lift families out of poverty by providing well-paid jobs and development programs on their team. Husband and wife team chefs Rebecca and Michael Bedenbaugh work to plan events that support the small farm economy as all of their foods are sourced locally. They host everything from dinner pop up parties to farm tours, workshops and dinners to provide education and the enjoyment of green spaces.
With so many culinary options out there on the market, it can be challenging to decide what’s most appealing to your wallet and your palette. But it’s important to remember where your money is going, and how much you can show your support for your community through where you choose to spend it. With options that provide you as much quality as they do ethical satisfaction, the choice seems obvious to us.