A Harlem Cafe Asks its Community for Help

photo by Jeff Mays

In a neighborhood that is changing rapidly, the East Harlem Cafe has styled itself as a kind of informal community center, holding together the threads of the neighborhood with open mics, fundraisers and other events, DNAinfo reported.

That’s why the owner, Michelle Cruz, is asking her patrons and supporters to help her raise $10,000 for improvements that she says are necessary for the cafe’s continued success.

So far, she has raised $685 in just 24 hours using the website Indiegogo and received many other pledges.

“It was tough for me to ask for money but, at the same time, we provide a service rather than a product by connecting people and showing the love and flavor of El Barrio,” she said.

Cruz said she hopes to help provide nutritious options for her customers by building a new display case that will allow her to offer salads, yogurts and diabetic-friendly foods, and by buying a juicer for healthy drinks such as carrot juice.

East Harlem is a food desert. Only 3 percent of bodegas carry fresh, leafy green vegetables compared to 30 percent on the Upper East Side, according to a city study. Six of every 10 adults in East and Central Harlem are overweight or obese.

“Our plan is to create more healthy options,” Cruz said.

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