Meet Tony Hillery – Founder & Executive director of Harlem Grown in New York City.

Updated: May 14

One man makes a big difference by:

  • Building urban farms to address food insecurity in underserved neighborhoods.

  • Providing vulnerable communities access to healthy produce.

  • Educating and empowering youth to make better food decisions to break the circle of poverty.



“Education is how you break the circle of poverty."

- Tony Hillery -


Tony Hillery had a successful Limousine company when the financial crisis happened. In 2011, he began volunteering at a public elementary school in Harlem. After seeing the children’s living conditions and lack of healthy food options, he decided to address food insecurity in this underserved neighborhood. By converting more than a dozen vacant lots in Harlem into urban farms, Harlem grown, his non-profit organization, helps nourish food-insecure children. Tony invites students from underfunded schools to get their hands dirty working on the farm while learning about healthy, sustainable eating, as well as collaboration. Thousands of pounds of fruits and vegetables are grown every year, which is all given to the kids and their families.

Hillery's work helps address an severe ongoing crisis in New York City, where more than 114,000 children are homeless and about one in five is food insecure, according to the Food Bank of New York City.

By Tony Hillery as told to Chefs for Impact

How did Harlem Grown start?

“It started from an observation. I’m not from Harlem and when I started volunteering in the neighborhood, I met with the local communities. I realized that kids go to school there, not only for academics but also for their daily meals. It bothered me that kids co