Millie Peartree

Cooking and baking comes from the heart. It can also make an impact on other people’s lives in a big way. I know this because I live it, whether catering SeeHer Advisory Board dinner meetings, serving as a guest chef at Google, or making cupcakes for coworkers when I worked at Viacom.

I saw the power of food to comfort and heal in action when we donated meals during the pandemic to essential workers such as nurses, doctors, postal workers, and workers in bodegas. And we prepared and donated 5,000 meals across New York City to protesters in partnership with the World Central Kitchen and Front Line Foods.

I’ve felt that power myself, when I baked to help me cope after my mom passed away. Suddenly, it was up to me to take care of my four brothers and sisters, two of whom are autistic. I used to cook Southern food with my mom and so I turned to cooking to love and care for the children. That turned into a business, and now the business has turned into a powerful way for me to make a difference in my community.

At the beginning of July, we launched an eight-week feeding program called Full Heart, Full Bellies in my native Bronx, the poorest of New York’s five boroughs. We created the initiative to fill the gap when a lot of food programs, mainly in the schools, were cancelled due to Covid-19.

We are serving 600 meals three times a week throughout the summer with our delivery partner Audi; kitchen space donated by Amazon; support from Restaurant Associates; Coca-Cola (which provides water and Minute Maid juices); Barilla Pasta; New Jersey bakery The Bread Gal Bakery (a certified women-owned bakery that supplies us with muffins); and volunteers from all over the city. Everybody has stepped in to help out and we’ve also received a lot of donations from ordinary folks to try and bridge the hunger gap.

When we’re done, we’ll have served 14,400 meals to kids who really need them. And my hope is that the program will be picked up by other marketers and spread from community to community.

That’s the power of food to unite us, a lesson I’ve learned not just by living and cooking but also by incredible mentors like SeeHer Co-Founder Gail Tifford, who I met at Viacom and is like the big sister I’ve always yearned for, and Marc Scheuer, senior vice president at Restaurant Associates, who taught me everything about the business and gave me my first catering account, Lincoln Center.

My company is my passion, but business also is a great way to dedicate your life to helping others. We talk about how we’re all about social justice but often we get caught up with the hashtag versus the actual work.  You may not march, but maybe you can feed a protester. After the money is donated, what can we do in the community to change things?