As more and more New Yorkers struggle with food insecurity as a result of the pandemic, restaurants around Greenpoint are offering pay what you can meals to people in need. 

Blair Papagni and Josh Cohen, owners of Anella and the recently closed Jimmy’s Diner, started doing this in March and after a summer hiatus, recently began offering pay what you can options on menu items again.

“We felt like things were getting bad again, and we wanted to be able to offer this service to our neighbors,” says Papagni. “While the neighborhood has changed, there is still the need for support for our neighbors. There are people who are food insecure. There are people who have not gone out to eat because they are saving.”

Each week Annella offers a pay what you can option that changes depending on what is available. This week there is pay what you can baked ziti, on their to-go menu. 

“My goal for pay what you can is to be something that people never feel any shame in coming in and getting, because truly it is my pleasure to be able to offer it,” Papagni says.


Kimchee Market, a Korean grocery and takeout restaurant on Greenpoint Avenue, offers “Pay What You Can” on sushi and kimbap cases after 9 p.m. “It helps everyone out, and it helps us not waste food,” says Kimchee Market owner Chul Kim. The pay what you can option is new, Kim says, but he is eager to continue offering it and hearing from neighbors about best ways to make it work.

Although not a pay what you can option, Sibte Hassan, the owner of BK Jani, a Pakistani restaurant in Williamsburg, cooks 300 meals a week for community fridges in Greenpoint and Williamsburg. 

“Now is a time when everybody is scared, there’s a lot of fear among people in the community,” he says. “How can I lessen the anxiety in the community? For me, the best thing is food. The first thing that everybody needs is food.” 

Hassan cooks lentils, rice, and meat dishes that are brought by to the fridges by North Brooklyn Mutual Aid volunteers twice a week. This is part of a project he calls the Daal Chawal Project, which you can donate to on the BK Jani website

“I have the blessing of having the most heavenly thing  Brooklyn, in New York – a commercial kitchen. And It would be a shame for me to have something so powerful, and not do anything with it. So that’s why I’m connecting all those dots and making this link to keep the hungry people not hungry and let people be appreciated on a human level.”  

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