NORTHGLEN, COLO. - In a partnership with food magazine company Edible Communities, Niman Ranch recognized five food heroes across the United States that have supported their communities in 2020. 

Recipients were selected from more than 300 nominations submitted by people from across the country as part of the “Impacting Lives Beyond the Plate” initiative. 

The 2020 Beyond the Plate Food Heroes are: 

Allison DeHonney, Urban Fruits and Veggies & Buffalo Go Green, Buffalo, NY 

As the president of Urban Fruits and Veggies (UFV) and founder of the non-profit Buffalo Go Green, when the COVID-19 pandemic began, DeHonney quickly mobilized efforts to deliver free boxes of fresh produce to families in need throughout the city. Known for her commitment to urban farming, wellness and justice in diverse communities, DeHonney maintains an urban farm and mobile produce market that delivers healthy, nutritious food and education programs to underserved populations living in food deserts throughout the region. 

Chef Ross Katz, Roosters Kitchen, Indianapolis 

Katz opened Rooster’s Kitchen in October 2016, and during the early days of this year’s pandemic, Katz pivoted quickly due to circumstance, retooling his kitchen—not only to keep his customers supplied with take-out options and grocery goods, but also to expand his Feed it Forward program to aggressively support vulnerable populations. Using both monetary and product donations from businesses and individuals, Katz continues to focus on partnerships with local non-profits that address ongoing food insecurity. He has also provided thousands of meals to frontline workers. 

Chef Hugo Ortega, Backstreet Cafe, Hugo’s, Caracol, Xochi, Houston 

Ortega is executive chef/co-owner of four of Houston’s top restaurants and the winner of Best Chef: Southwest at the prestigious 2017 James Beard Foundation Awards. At the start of pandemic restrictions earlier this year, Ortega and his kitchen team partnered quickly with sponsors to ensure that meals were prepared and delivered routinely to frontline workers at local hospitals and first responders in Houston. Since then, he has continued to focus on feeding additional frontline workers and providing meals to unemployed restaurant industry workers in the community. 

Chef Joe Phillips, Pints & Union Restaurant, New Albany, Ind. 

Chef Joe Phillips, owner of Pints and Union, has been heralded by peers as one of the most philanthropic forces in the Kentuckiana community since the start of Covid-19. Early on in the pandemic, Phillips and his team made sweeping efforts to shift their business model and sought resourceful partnerships to help support the community with relief efforts. Through a LEE Initiative Grant, they collected groceries to give to food industry workers who lost their jobs and made grocery and meal deliveries to vulnerable populations. He has also led his own fundraising efforts by selling masks, flags, t-shirts and other goods, to support those in need. 

Chef Ryan Rizzuto, Kitchens for Good, San Diego 

Kitchens for Good in San Diego believes that all food has power and that all people have potential. They empower individuals with culinary and hospitality training, along with the life skills needed to launch meaningful careers. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rizzuto and his team at Kitchens for Good have prepared well over 100,000 nourishing meals for families and individuals in their community who are struggling to keep food on the table. They continue to offer these services as the pandemic wears on, earning their well-deserved designation as a food hero in their community. 

Niman Ranch is rewarding the chosen Food Heroes with donations of their Certified Humane meats to support relief efforts. These donations continue a series of initiatives from Niman Ranch to support the restaurant sector and impacted communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, including an $80,000 restaurant relief fund and donations of more than 70,000 servings of meat to those in need. 

“Despite the many challenges 2020 has presented, particularly for those working in the hard-hit food industry, these Food Heroes stepped up to help their neighbors,” said Chris Oliviero, Niman Ranch general manager. “Their local relief efforts should inspire us all to ask how we can do more to support those in need.”