COOKFOX Day of Service 2022
On May 6, COOKFOX held our annual Day of Service across six sites in New York City, which included Ali Forney Center, Carter Burden Network, FABSCRAP, GrowNYC, Harlem Grown, and Red Hook Farms.
Day of Service was born seven years ago out of our desire to contribute to environmental projects in the communities in which we live and work. Our first Day of Service in 2016 coincided with Earth Day and emerged from our desire to spend a day outside of the studio to reconnect our hands with the soil and with nature by caring for gardens and parks around NYC. Our volunteer efforts have since evolved to include service to environmental, social, and educational organizations that align with our studio’s mission.
Through these efforts, our studio develops relationships with organizations for which our collective knowledge can make a difference. Some of the projects we have completed over the years, such as designing and building a kitchen in collaboration with AIA New York or building permanent outdoor structures, provide a service to local non-profit organizations that might otherwise be difficult or costly to obtain.
Organizations are selected for the Day of Service based on how their mission aligns with our values as a studio and how impactful our contribution will be. Some of the organizations chosen this year feature strong educational programs centered on food, urban farming, and sustainability, another addresses the city’s commercial textile recycling needs, and others support at-risk youth or senior citizens. Activities are developed in cooperation with the organizations—we always ask what each organization needs and coordinate our support based on those needs.
“What’s really important to us is to understand the greater impact these organizations are having on the community and ask ourselves how we can help further that impact” said Bailey Topper, COOKFOX Associate and lead of the Day of Service committee. “We don’t necessarily know how to teach others about urban farming, but we can provide the architecture knowledge needed to build a stage for outdoor community events.”
This year, we included three organizations focused on urban farming and sustainability. Harlem Grown’s mission is to inspire youth to lead healthy and ambitious lives through the operation of local urban farms that provide a source of affordable, healthy food for Harlem residents. Believing that food justice goes beyond distributing food, Harlem Grown seeks to impact their community through education, mentorship, and partnerships that benefit local youth. We have worked with Harlem Grown for a few years, building a stage and permanent installations, distributing food, and planting. This year, our team of volunteers harvested produce, watered plants, and helped maintain the hydroponic garden.
Red Hook Farms is new to our Day of Service, and we are excited to work with them again in the future. Based in Brooklyn, the farm is a project of the Red Hook Initiative and hosts a youth-centered urban farming and food justice program that engages teenagers with their community and the environment. The farm increases access to healthy affordable produce and nurtures the next generation of green leaders. Our team of volunteers helped build and fill planter beds to bring to fruition the farm’s master plan as created by landscape architecture firm Future Green Studio, a frequent COOKFOX collaborator.
GrowNYC aims to improve the city’s quality of life through environmental programs that transform communities and empower New Yorkers to secure a clean and healthy environment. Initially established as a policy-focused organization, GrowNYC has expanded to include food access, agriculture, conservation, sustainability, green space, education, and community outreach programs. GrowNYC is also involved in advancing green legislation, particularly with regards to food waste and composting, for which they have worked with government agencies to develop programs to expand sustainable food waste efforts. This year, our volunteers went to Governors Island, one of GrowNYC’s newer sites where they keep a teaching garden. The team helped plant and designed recycled paper bags to be used for distributing food.
COOKFOX has had a long-standing supportive relationship with the Ali Forney Center, an organization dedicated to saving the lives of LGBTQ+ youth and protecting them from the harms of homelessness. Founded in 2002 in the memory of Ali Forney, a homeless gender-nonconforming youth who was forced to live on the streets and was tragically murdered, the center provides 24-hour support that empowers youth to live independently. Our volunteer efforts at AFC aim to give back to the community in meaningful ways that make an impact on the day-today experience of the queer youth who receive AFC’s services. This year, we helped prepare one of the center’s living locations to receive new youths.
At the start of the pandemic, our studio wanted to understand the needs of our local communities and how we could be of assistance. We learned of the amazing efforts of the Carter Burden Center for the Aging and the Carter Burden Network, and also learned of the difficulties experienced in the early days of quarantine by New York City seniors who had come to rely on meal delivery services. In previous years, we worked with the Carter Burden Network to help package and deliver meals. This year, we hosted a virtual bingo game for seniors.
We discovered FABSCRAP after efforts by the COOKFOX interior design team to dispose of materials and samples from the office in a responsible, sustainable manner. FABSCRAP has developed a process that diverts textile samples that would otherwise end up in local landfills and gives them a second life. They transform what would be waste into a reusable, valuable material, while also calling attention to the harmful environmental impact of fast fashion. Our team helped sort fabric and remove tags, buttons, and labels for recycling. FABSCRAP’s efforts cut down on textile waste and connects with our goals as a studio to be intentional about the materials we use, not only about how much we use, but also where the materials come from and where they end up.
Every year have six groups with around 20 studio mates volunteering at each site. This year, the groups were slightly smaller due to the lingering effects of the pandemic, but it was exciting to see the office come together in person to volunteer once again. “Day of Service is our studio at its best—not only speaking our values but living them as well,” said Topper.