As a New York caterer, Lauren McGrath has a unique professional advantage: She maintains wholesale accounts with some of the city's top food suppliers.
So when the lockdown began last March, the Harlem-based “local food maven” realized there was one straightforward way she could help her favorite purveyors—by continuing to place orders.
To do that on a meaningful scale, she invited friends and neighbors to join her, focusing her efforts on three in particular: Amy's Bread, Saxelby Cheese and Down East Seafood.
Nineteen months into the pandemic, McGrath has added four more vendors, including produce suppliers Natoora and Lani's Farm, meats specialist D'Artagnan, and smoked fish wholesaler Acme. (Right now she is also taking Thanksgiving pre-orders for heritage, free-range turkeys from D'Artagnan. Contact her at the email below for details.)
"The quality is sky high," says McGrath of the vendors she works with. "They normally supply fab restaurants and have expressed great appreciation that we are giving them business."
Her project even has an official(ish) name: the Hamilton Heights Food Co-Op.
Every Saturday she sends everyone who's signed up food and price lists from each supplier (examples: French baguettes from Amy's Bread: $2.09; Long Island littleneck clams from Down East: 65 cents each). Orders are placed the following Monday.
The food, delivered to her home on W 142nd Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue every Wednesday, must be picked up in person, keeping social distancing in mind.
To cover her time—she works about two days on the project and considers herself a local business—McGrath adds a slight markup (20%). Even so, the prices remain extremely low. Payment is via Venmo or similar.
To get on McGrath's email list, contact her at email@example.com.