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BANK ON IT: Food Bank For New York City's Blog

NYC Needs a Living Wage

by Ashley Goforth

Food Bank For New York City would like to announce its endorsement of the ”Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act.” As our supporters know, the Food Bank works to educate members of the public and government officials at the city, state and federal levels to enlist their support in combating food poverty. To better understand the idea of a living wage and the Food Bank’s role in this effort, we asked Triada Stampas, Director of Governmental Relations & Public Education, to elaborate more on the campaign and the Food Bank’s mission to end food poverty.

What is a living wage? A living wage is the hourly wage rate necessary for a person to afford basic needs, like housing, food and health care. Because cost of living varies from place to place, the amount that would constitute a living wage in one city or area might be higher or lower than in another. In New York City, existing legislation has already defined the local living wage as $10/hour with benefits or $11.50/hour without benefits.

What is Living Wage NYC?
Living Wage NYC is a coalition of organizations that are working toward a living wage for all New Yorkers..

What is the Living Wage NYC proposing?
The campaign’s big push right now, which the Food Bank has endorsed, is for passage of the “Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act” (Int. 251-2010). The bill would require developers and major employers who receive government subsidies for economic development projects to guarantee that the jobs created by those projects will pay a living wage.

Why is the Food Bank involved?
The Food Bank strives every day not only to provide food to the 1.4 million New Yorkers who rely on our network of approximately 1,000 community-based member programs, but to tackle the financial, educational and public policy issues that perpetuate hunger and food poverty. Right now, New York City’s unemployment rate is still almost double what it was at the start of the recession, and the current minimum wage ($7.25/hr) is well below a living wage. So too many New Yorkers simply don’t have the resources to provide sufficient food for themselves and their families on a regular basis – in fact, our research shows 3 million New York City residents had difficulty affording food over the past year. Ensuring that those employers who receive city subsidies in turn provide a living wage to their employees is a significant step in the right direction – and if we are going to fulfill our mission of ending hunger in New York City, supporting work to secure the dignity and independence of a living wage for more New Yorkers is one of the most important things we can do.

Help Hungry New Yorkers by Pledging to Lose Pounds

by Ashley Goforth

As the Communications & Marketing Assistant at the Food Bank, I have the opportunity to hear about a lot of amazing opportunities going on to support not only the Food Bank For New York City but also the larger hunger relief community. My personal favorite are the ones that combine helping yourself and helping others in a quick and FREE way. Quick because time is a valuable asset (especially for New Yorkers, right?) and free because sometimes the only thing we can give to the causes we love is our support.

The Biggest Loser’s Pound For Pound Challenge is one of these opportunities. The Pound For Pound Challenge is dedicated to getting people to pledge to be bit healthier and lose a few pounds. It takes just a few seconds to select your state and your local food bank and take the pledge. And for each pound that you pledge for us, 11 cents will be donated to the Food Bank. Another great element is, if you are already at your ideal weight and fitness, you can pledge to maintain that weight and The Biggest Loser will still donate!

This is also great opportunity to help yourself. It’s an opportunity to make a promise to put your nutrition and health needs on your list of things to do this spring. The Food Bank is quite the advocate of making healthy choices. The Food Bank’s CookShop nutrition education program and our Change One Thing campaign all provide needed nutrition education to New Yorkers. And we are very proud to have won Feeding America’s Mightly Apple award for the most fresh produce collected for distribution five times in the past six years.

Aligned with our mission to provide New Yorkers with the tools they need for change – the Pound For Pound Challenge allows you to recognize that you want to strengthen your own nutrition education.

Who doesn’t love a free way to help fight hunger AND be active in your nutritional health? I don’t know about you, but to me it’s much more fulfilling to take the stairs everyday while reminding myself that I pledged to lose a few pounds in the name of hunger relief.

Eat.Celebrate.Support. and the Reveal of the Culinary Council

by Davinia Buckley

On Tuesday, December 7, the Food Bank For New York City achieved an “orange empire state of mind” by gathering 200 guests, including celebrity chefs, restaurateurs, TV personalities and Food Bank supporters like you atop the Empire State Building to launch its Culinary Council and raise funds and awareness for hunger relief. This newly formed council is made up of 36 of the best- known names in the culinary world including committee chair Mario Batali, Emeril Lagasse, Anthony Bourdain and Ted Allen to name a few.

Presented by the Condé Nast Food, this magical event kept true to it’s name: Eat. Celebrate. Support. Guests were treated to dishes prepared by the Culinary Council’s well-known chefs themselves. Delicacies included Pappa Col Pomodoro prepared by SD26 and butternut squash custard with milk chocolate caramel and cranberry gelee prepared by Double Crown. All participating chefs for the night included, Yann de Rochefort, David Burke, Brad Farmerie, Andrew Carmellini, Michael Schlow, Masaharu Morimoto, Tom Colicchio, Cesare Casella, Marisa May and Tim Buma.

The spirit of the night was captured perfectly with nothing less than the color orange. The Empire State Building was glowing orange inside and out (literally), bringing hunger awareness to all of New York City, by lighting up in orange for the seventh year in a row. Inside, the room had a warm orange glow, and in the words of Mario Batali himself, as he raised a toast, making orange not the color of hunger awareness, but the color of ending hunger all together.

CookShop Launches in More Classrooms than Ever Before

As the holiday season draws near, we at the Food Bank have an additional reason to celebrate: the annual start of CookShop, which this year will reach record numbers of children, teens and adults throughout the city.

appleOur federally funded nutrition education program, CookShop helps teach low-income New Yorkers the skills and knowledge to make healthy food choices on a limited budget. Starting this December, approximately 30,000 New Yorkers – nearly twice as many as last year – will participate in hands-on workshops featuring fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes.

flowerIn CookShop Classroom for Elementary School, participants will find out about where food comes from (hint: it’s not the fridge or the bodega!) and use their five senses to explore food up close. Participants in CookShop for Families will learn helpful nutrition tips like how to plan healthy and affordable meals at home. But the best part of CookShop, as our participants tell us time and again, is the cooking – and, of course, the tasting! No one puts it better than Mossiah, an elementary student at P.S. 307K in Brooklyn: “I learned in CookShop that when we are done we get to eat food and it tastes good. It tastes so good. I said, MMMMM.”

We look forward to working with teachers and students in more than 1,300 CookShop classrooms in the months to come!

I am a Civic Corps Member, and I Will Get Things Done

By Pan Venkatraman

Americorps logoAs the Food Bank For New York City’s two New York City Civic Corps members, Mallory Shan and I wear a couple of different hats. While on the one hand we’re akin to full-time staff at the Food Bank, we also have duties for the NYC Civic Corps, which itself is part of the greater AmeriCorps organization. AmeriCorps is a federal service program, created under President Bill Clinton in 1993, that engages citizens from all over the U.S. in long-term projects, including anything from after-school programs to special-needs advocacy to environmental clean-up. As two recent college grads serious about making a difference in our country, Mallory and I couldn’t have found a better fit than working at the Food Bank with the AmeriCorps program.

Swearing in by Mayor Michael Bloomberg

A few weeks ago we attended the 2010 New York State AmeriCorps Kickoff – an event acknowledging and celebrating the work of the nearly 1,200 AmeriCorps members in the state. The kickoff represented a fantastic opportunity to learn, network, and reaffirm our commitment to serving those in need – in our case, the hungry citizens of New York City. After an early morning bus to the state’s capital in Albany, we decamped to the sight of more than a thousand bright and enthusiastic corps members. We began the day with a rousing round of PT (physical training, to the uninitiated), and soon were treated to a packed program of inspring speeches, addresses and testimonials. John Gomperts, current head of the program, led a swearing in and recitation of the AmeriCorps pledge, committing us to “to make our people safer, smarter and healthier.” Certainly the highlight of the day was the address given by La Verna J. Fountain, President and founder of the Defiant Hope Consulting and Training Company. Highlighting her struggles out of poverty, her battle with multiple sclerosis and instances of prejudice in her own life, La Verna challenged AmeriCorps members to “say yes, where others would say no,” and to keep fighting for positive change even as naysayers will “stab you in the front.”

NYC Civic Corps 2010

On the bus ride back, Mallory and I had ample opportunity to reflect on the mandate put before us. We will certainly face challenges as we work on projects for the Food Bank, from tax assistance to the CookShop nutrition education program to improving the Community Kitchen and Food Pantry of West Harlem. And though things may get tough, we’ll be certain to keep this pledge in mind: “I am an AmeriCorps member, and I will get things done.”

Target’s “Party for Good” Did a Lot of Good!

From top: One of two areas where attendees packed meals; volunteers in action (some attendees packed three to five boxes each!); one of many warehouse-themed decorations at the party.
by Brian Pham

On June 28, the Food Bank For New York City had the pleasure of participating in and benefiting from Target’s “Party for Good,” an exciting event that was held at an undeveloped warehouse on the East River. The party was in honor of the attendees, facilitators and supporters of the National Conference of Volunteering and Services, where leaders in the volunteering and service world met for three days to share best practices and participate in informative workshops.

Not only did Target throw a terrific party for the “volunteer coordinators of the world,” but they also included a HUGE volunteer activity that night! Partying and volunteering – is there any other better combination?

Party attendees packaged 150,000 meals that were distributed to children and families at  the Food Bank’s member soup kitchens and food pantries across the five boroughs. Who knew that a party could be so good while doing so much good?

Watch this video to see what the warehouse looked like before and after Target decorated it, along with some clips of the party in action.

Thank you to Target for hosting such a brilliant event, and to everyone who attended!

Toast & Jam: Not the Breakfast Food

From top: Dr. Lucy Cabrera presents Susan Ungaro,  President of the James Beard Foundation, with an award for their longtime support; Chef Seamus Mullen of Boqueria in action in the James Beard Foundation kitchen during the event.
by Davinia Buckley

Food Bank For New York City is incredibly fortunate to have so many wonderful and dedicated supporters. We thank all of our supporters for making a difference, and the continued success and growth of the Food Bank is a constant reminder of the impact of all of your efforts. Despite the economic strain that many are feeling, supporters like you continue to find ways to show their dedication to ending hunger in the five boroughs — whether through donations, volunteering or spreading the word, your support makes a real difference in the lives of New Yorkers in need.

One of our most noteworthy opportunities to recognize our donors’ immeasurable contributions is our annual Toast & Jam celebration. It provides a time to formally thank our Liberty Partners and longtime supporters. It was a beautiful evening, which featured the true charm of the James Beard House — the host for nine years running — as guests enjoyed hors d’oeuvres prepared by Chef Seamus Mullen of Boqueria (another supporter that is always available to lend a hand).

Of course, a Food Bank event would not be complete without some splashes of orange. The signature color was incorporated through orange ribbons worn by supporters who have been giving to the Food Bank for more than 20 years. Their longtime commitment to fighting hunger is truly commendable and is crucial to the Food Bank’s ability to provide food assistance to the five boroughs.

At the evening’s close, Dr. Lucy Cabrera took a moment to thank all of the attendees for their commitment to the Food Bank. Furthermore, for the first time in the history of Toast & Jam, Dr. Cabrera presented an award to the James Beard Foundation, who has also been a longtime partner in the fight against hunger. At the conclusion of the presentation, everyone joined in a toast to the continued success of the Food Bank and the kindness of its donors. I would also like to give a special thanks to our sponsors who helped make it possible: FedEx, Stella Artois, illycaffè, Acqua Panna/San Pellegrino and Southern Wines and Spirits.

And last, but definitely not least, a toast to all of you!

Better-Than-A-Picnic Picnic with Hebrew National & Mom Bloggers

by Heather Joseph

From top: The mom bloggers, Cheryl Hines and I show off our reusable canvas bags; Cheryl Hines talks about her commitment to hunger relief and her participation in the Better Than a Picnic picnic.

What happens when you combine a group of dedicated mom bloggers, Hebrew National hot dogs, Cheryl Hines of HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm and Randall’s Island? You get a fun-filled day supporting both the Food Bank For New York City and Hebrew National’s Better-Than-A-Picnic. On Saturday, May 22,  NYC Mom Bloggers hosted the event that was chock full of fun. I was there on site to partake in the festivities and, of course, represent the Food Bank.

Randall’s Island served as a great backdrop. Families were everywhere, enjoying the beautiful spring day on the soccer field, softball fields and playing in the park. Hebrew National set up a wiener wagon serving up yummy, piping hot hotdogs. Cheryl Hines was on site, not only speak of her relationship with Hebrew National but to comment on her commitment to raising hunger awareness nationally. In addition to the hotdogs, this free, family-friendly event had a mechanical bull (screams fun, no?) and a station to decorate reusable lunch bags that were then donated to our Community Kitchen & Food Pantry of West Harlem.

And a point about these phenomenal mom bloggers! Gracious is not enough of a word to explain how engaging and welcoming they were. It started with Emily of who worked to ensure that I got there and back home safely — car service :*two major thumbs up.* Meeting her cohort of other mom bloggers meant hearing sincere enthusiasm for 1) being awesome moms and 2) working to install, at an early stage, commitment to helping others in need. These moms rocked!

The day served as a great way for all family members to gets involved in a great cause. Doing good, on a full stomach and learning about the Food Bank’s dedication to helping New Yorkers in need— what at great day.

By the way, Cheryl Hines is extremely sweet and not at all a TV show diva! She enjoyed learning about the Food Bank and even made a really cool reusable lunch bag.

Whether you’re a parent, a New Yorker, a foodie  or just someone who like to support conscientious people, we hope you’ll enjoy all of the great mom-bloggers who came out in support of hunger relief!

Amy O., Selfish Mom
Amy P., Long Island Parent Source
Anna, Mommy Poppins
Carol, NY City Mama
Cecily, Upper Case Woman
Isabel, Alpha Mom
Jen, Next Kid Thing
Kelsey, Naptime Chef
Kimberly, Mom in the City
Jo-Lynne, Musings of a Housewife
Lisa, New York Chica
Melissa, Girly Mama
Suzanne, Mom Confessionals 
Whitney, Mommies with Style 

The Food Banker’s Guide to New York City

by Caitlin Buckley

When I started at the Food Bank last July, I changed not just jobs but cities — almost two weeks after my first day here, I went back to Somerville, MA, to finish packing, and the next day my boyfriend and I moved into our new apartment in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Until then, I had been a near-lifetime Massachusetts resident, and moving to New York City fulfilled a long-held wish. While much thought and discussion went into which borough to live in, we both felt sure that we wanted to be here.

Almost a year later, I still feel like a recent transplant, exploring my own neighborhood and making only occasional trips to other boroughs, but the Food Bank has taken me all over the city. Because of my job I’ve had so many places to go — Richmond Hill, Queens, to visit the River Fund; down to the ferry to travel to Community Health Action of Staten Island; up to the Bronx for a story on St. Ann’s Episcopal Church (stay tuned, it’ll be posted here soon!); and back to Brooklyn for a tour of Oneg Shabbos, a kosher food pantry in Borough Park — all members of the Food Bank's food program network. And volunteering at events has taken me even more places — Chelsea Piers for the Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival, Times Square for our Annual Agency Conference. And of course, I’ve been up and down the city visiting the Food Bank’s own locations — from our Downtown Manhattan office on Broadway, to the Community Kitchen & Food Pantry of West Harlem, to our warehouse up in Hunt’s Point, Bronx.

These travels have enriched my experience of New York City and introduced me to many more people than I would have met at a different job. I can’t wait to see where the Food Bank takes me next.

Want your own excuse to travel around New York City? Explore our volunteer opportunities today! Plus, fill out our online Volunteer Application and receive notices about special needs that may not get posted online.

Learning to Appreciate the Color Orange

by Davinia Buckley

I was lucky enough to join the Food Bank For New York City team this January, starting the new year off on a... well, on an orange note. Similar to any newcomer, I am excited, curious, a little nervous — but most of all eager to learn. First and foremost, I have learned that the Food Bank and the color orange are essentially synonymous, and I had the chance to experience the enormous effect this color can have on an entire city at the NYC Goes Orange Appreciation Event.

Food Bank board member Mario Batali raising a toast at our 2010 NYC Goes Orange Appreciation Event

The Food Bank held this event in February to thank the more than 300 partner organizations that helped produce another successful NYC Goes Orange — an annual, citywide campaign to spread orange, the color of hunger awareness, throughout New York City in an effort to raise meals for the more than 1 In 5 New Yorkers who rely on the Food Bank to eat.

The NYC Goes Orange Appreciation Event did not fall short of continuing this “Go Orange” trend. The event was held at Vento Restaurant, where by sheer coincidence the curtains and décor were orange, setting a rather appropriate and festive mood. Yet, the orange-spotting did not stop there, as it was not long before Food Bank board member Mario Batali himself arrived sporting his signature orange crocs.

Later in the evening, Batali, joined by Food Bank President and CEO Lucy Cabrera, toasted our partners’ hard work raising food, funds and public awareness for New Yorkers in need.

To make a long story (told well by our campaign recap video) short, the campaign was a success. Furthermore, judging by the positive atmosphere and smiling faces, so was the event, which was made possible by Southern Wine and Spirits, Stella Artois and Vanguard Direct. Needless to say, I left feeling as though I had “Gone Orange.”



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