Iron Chef judge, New York restaurateur, and mom to a soon-to-be 3-year-old, Donatella Arpaia Stewart is a major supporter of City Harvest, an organization that feeds New York City’s hungry women, children and families by collecting and delivering excess food from restaurants, grocers, and farms. Arpaia Stewart is spending time in the Hamptons this summer, running her Sienna Restaurant & Ultralounge pop-up in East Hampton, and participating in culinary events like last weekend’s Taste of Two Forks. But she took a few minutes to chat with StrollerTraffic about feeding the hungry and raising a little foodie.
Tell us about City Harvest. City Harvest collects millions of pounds of excess food from restaurants, grocers, and farms and delivers it to more than 500 community food programs throughout the City. It helps feed nearly 2 million New Yorkers facing hunger each year. That’s fantastic. What a wonderful mission. What is your role, exactly? I’ve been on the executive committee for years. I’ve gone on the truck rides with them through Manhattan. I do the spring gala and have raised quite a bit of money auctioning myself off! Love that. Why City Harvest? The restaurant community has a responsibility to help feed the hungry in our neighborhoods. Especially becoming a mother, your heart goes out to the children. There are so many who are hungry and nutritionally deprived. For those of us who create food for a living, we can never forget it is a form of basic nourishment. How serious is the problem in New York? It was so eye-opening for me, realizing that there are shelters in the neighborhood where I live, where we all live. It is sobering. There is extreme poverty just a few blocks away. We see a lot of pregnant mothers who really need proper food, vegetables to avoid birth defects and to have a better experience. How can other moms help? There are so many different ways to volunteer and to donate—either individually or with friends and family. When you’re not working or donating your time to City Harvest, what do you like to do with your family in New York? We’ve been having picnics in the park lately. Before I had a toddler, I loved to eat and experience friends’ restaurants—but it can be hard to take a toddler out. It’s not fair to you, nor to the restaurateur, so I’m finding new ways. At the park, we always go to the Boat House, the carousel, and the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre. We’re having a great time. We hear you. Navigating restaurants with little ones can be difficult—not to mention getting them to eat well. Any tips? It’s challenging. You really have to be prepared–it’s half the battle. I think discovering what kids like when they are hungry is important–that doesn’t happen if they are on snacks all day. So true. We bet your son is a little foodie already. I’m really trying to get him to eat more vegetables. My son is a complete chocaholic—he has a fetish with sugar. My husband and I don’t have sweet tooths, but he does! I try to balance it. He loves cucumber, broccoli in containers . . . but if it’s not in front of him, he’s not going to go for it. I try for a balance of mostly good, and a little bad, too. You have to try to make sure you govern most of the diet, absolutely, but it’s unrealistic to have no sugar. Right? You can only fight the good fight so far. Thanks for chatting, Donatella.