‘Woks for Washington’ aims to preserve local Asian cuisine during the pandemic

Grace and Cathleen Shi pick up meals from BAB Korean Fusion in D.C. for their new organization Woks for Washington. (Courtesy Grace Shi)
Cathleen and Grace Shi deliver meals to Shady Grove Hospital as part of their new organization Woks for Washington. (Courtesy Grace Shi)
Grace and Cathleen Shi pick up meals from Gourmet Inspirations for their new organization Woks for Washington. (Courtesy Grace Shi)
Grace and Kathleen Shi deliver meals to Promise Place Youth Emergency Shelter as part of their new organization Woks for Washington. (Courtesy Grace Shi)

Two sisters looking to give back during the pandemic decided to pair their culture and experience as Asian Americans to help struggling businesses.

Grace Shi, 23, is a foodie at heart. But when the coronavirus pandemic hit, she decided to take her passion for food a step further.

“It was really easy to feel a little bit helpless in terms of the perception that we’re the ones who brought the virus here,” Shi said.

Grace, who works in finance and recently graduated from Cornell, was working in New York City and moved home to Rockville, Maryland, when the coronavirus pandemic began.

She started thinking of ways to give back and started Woks for Washington with her 13-year-old sister Cathleen. It’s a non-profit organization aimed at preserving Asian American culture through sharing Asian cuisine.

They raise money through private donations and their GoFundMe page to purchase food from D.C. area restaurants and then pick up and deliver the food to essential workers.

Their organization works through a fiscal partnership with the Players Philanthropy Fund.

Woks for Washington is currently helping Gourmet Inspirations in Silver Spring, BAB Korean Fusion in D.C., and Neisha Thai Cuisine in Virginia.

The places they are currently donating and delivering food to include Adventist Healthcare Shady Grove Medical Center, Promise Place Youth Emergency Shelter, Suburban Hospital and Virginia Hospital Center.

“It’s grown a lot faster than I’ve ever imagined it,” Cathleen said. “I’m excited to spread more awareness about Asian American diversity.

Their goal is to provide 5,000 meals by next summer.

Cathleen said that she has seen discrimination against Asian Americans increase since the coronavirus pandemic and she hopes that by helping bring awareness to the culture and cuisine that they can help to change stereotypes.

“When I was younger, a couple of my non-Asian classmates actually started making fun of the smell of my dumplings that I brought for lunch to the point where one of them actually knocked some down to the ground,” Cathleen said.

The sisters recently started a blog called “Food for Thought” on their website to help share their thoughts and to be vocal about diversity and inclusion from an Asian American perspective.

“I’m hoping that something like this especially can show people that preserving and appreciating our diversity is important,” Grace said.

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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