Chef and artist DeVonn Francis, the force behind experiential, community-based food and events company Yardy, in Crown Heights, has launched a new meal delivery service for New Yorkers.
The menu features a rotating, seasonal mix of healthy and affordable ready-to-eat items including rye turmeric crackers, a summer salad with baby greens, radishes, and a coconut herb vinaigrette, and a polenta cake with candied pistachio and horned melon. There’s a grocery component as well: Customers can purchase bags of produce from Yardy that are sourced from predominantly black and queer-owned farms. The ready-to-eat items are available for purchase now; the produce will be listed later on Yardy’s site.
It was important, Francis says, that Yardy’s tenets of sustainability and fostering community that centered the business in its pre-pandemic life are embedded in the meal delivery service. In the two weeks that the delivery service has been live, Francis has been in close communication with Yardy’s customers — between 50 to 60 people each week — to check in on them, get feedback on the meals, and learn what else they want to see on the menu.
In a further effort to support Yardy’s immediate community, Francis started raising money for a free meal program to provide relief for local black families in Crown Heights, where he grew up and where Yardy is based. Over the course of 48 hours, Yardy raised $16,000 for the program, and in the first food giveaway, Francis and his team handed out between 100 to 150 free pizzas.
“It’s cool because not only are we using this delivery service to build ourselves up, but we are creating free meals for the community that we are rooted in,” Francis says.
For now, Yardy is only offering delivery in Brooklyn, but Francis is actively looking to grow the program. He plans to partner with other small businesses to set up grocery kiosks in different neighborhoods for Yardy’s customers to come pick up their purchases.
The partnership is mutually supportive for both businesses: Customers receive Yardy goods combined with products from the small business where the kiosk is housed. In one example, Francis is partnering with a flower shop in Williamsburg and adding floral items to each Yardy customer’s bag. “We’re helping friends who are also figuring out how to stay afloat and grow,” Francis says. He hopes to be able to set up six kiosks in different neighborhoods over the course of the next three months.
Supporting others — whether through free meals for community members or business partnerships that boost fellow owners — was central to Francis’s model when he launched Yardy’s delivery service. It stems from Yardy’s roots as a culinary events company that focuses on building more conscious, sustainable food systems. Due to the pandemic, “every restaurant is being asked to shift [its business model],” Francis says. “We want to develop something that is beneficial from a financial standpoint and a community standpoint, too.”