Bank on It: A Food Bank Blog
by Krystine Keeler
In October 2009, a diverse team of Food Bank staff was called together to develop the Food Bank For New York City’s latest volunteer project — the Adopt a Food Program initiative, a partnership with Mayor Bloomberg’s NYC Service.
We began by reaching out to soup kitchens and food pantries in the Food Bank’s citywide network, asking them to name their top three priorities that a volunteer could help with. Choices ranged from grantwriting to maintenance and site beautification.
With our network’s input in hand, it was then the public’s turn. Kicking off the initiative, Mayor Bloomberg joined Food Bank President and CEO Lucy Cabrera for a press conference at our Hunts Point warehouse, asking individuals and groups to “adopt” a local food program. Adopt a Food Program volunteers are asked to commit three months to a year of their time to assist one of our city's food assistance programs. During this time they will work side-by-side with their program's staff to create the basis for long-term capacity and service improvements — enabling that program to better serve its community over time.
Now that we have a list of food programs and their needs, as well as a list of volunteers who want to adopt a program, we — Phillip Cooke, Amruta Kale and myself, the Food Bank’s NYC Civic Corps members in residence — have begun the matching process. Just a few weeks ago, Ms. Nayah Paul made a six-month commitment to be a grantwriter at the Jamaica Hispanic Seventh Day Adventist Church. Quick on the heels of that introduction, our second match was made: Ms. Navjot Kaur made a six-month commitment as a fundraiser for New Life Food & Clothing Pantry in Elmhurst, Queens.
We are all looking forward to making many matches in the future!
Learn more about adopting your own food program!
by Daniel Buckley
The Food Bank continually works to raise awareness and support for hunger relief through media, providing information, data and stories of those in need.
Here are some of the recent stories that have featured the Food Bank so far this holiday season:
THIS WEEK: Fox 5, “Good Day New York”
NY Weather Authority Mike Woods visits the Food Bank For New York City’s 90,000 square-foot Bronx warehouse to help get the word out about hunger in our city, interview President and CEO Lucy Cabrera and repack food for delivery to food pantries and soup kitchens.
WNYC, “The Brian Lehrer Show”
Áine Duggan, the Food Bank For New York City's Vice President of Research, Policy & Education, discusses hunger in New York and demand at food assistance programs across the city.
The New York Times, “City Room” blog, “Stimulus Funds Stock Pantries and Soup Kitchens”
Nationwide, food assistance programs received an extra $100 million in resources from the stimulus, on top of the $250 million that was originally budgeted. New York State’s financing soared 118 percent to $45 million, of which $28.5 million went to New York City.
NY1, “Food Bank For New York City Prepares Pre-Thanksgiving Day Feast”
With more than three million New Yorkers experiencing food shortages, the Food Bank’s Community Kitchen & Food Pantry of West Harlem prepared a Thanksgiving feast for those most in need.
Time/The Associated Press, “Food Banks Go High Tech to Feed the Hungry”
Food banks across the country are undergoing a high-tech revolution, adopting sophisticated databases, bar coding, GPS tracking, automated warehouses and other technologies used in the food industry that increasingly supplies their goods.
“Lola Berry New York,” Episode 4
Australian television personality Lola Berry drops by the Food Bank’s downtown office to interview Vice President of Policy, Research and Education Áine Duggan before subwaying it up to Harlem to speak with Jesse Taylor, the Senior Director of our Community Kitchen & Food Pantry of West Harlem.
by Paul Hernandez
According to a recent New York Times article, more and more Americans are taking part in the Food Stamp Program (now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP) — both because there is more need during this enduring recession, and because the stigma attached this resource has lessened.
When I was growing up, my family received food stamps for many years. At the time, I felt ashamed — not only because food stamps signified that we were poor, which we were, but also because it was unavoidably clear to anyone around when we used our food stamps. At the time, there were only certain items that you could buy with food stamps; at the same time the list of acceptable items was ambiguous. While generic cereals might be alright, brand name cereal might not. And, most times, you wouldn’t find out until you got to the cashier. I can tell you, there’s nothing worse than being a young teenager at your small-town grocery store when the checkout lady loudly announces , “You can’t buy diapers with food stamps.”
And, while food stamps are now provided on a card that you can swipe at the check out just like a typical debit card, at the time food stamps were provided in a packet that made them look like Monopoly money. Each stamp had a specific dollar value. And, as I recollect, stores had to give you change in real money and they often wouldn’t give more than one dollar worth of change. As a result, we had to keep your total within a dollar of the amount of food stamps you had, meaning that some months we ran out of ones or fives and would either have to leave some items at the register or run and grab some extra items just to bump up our total. I remember once buying an extra fifteen packages of gum so we could still get all the items we needed.
Much of that has changed today, and the food stamp program is growing because of it. Perhaps it’s time for people who stigmatize the program to rethink their preconceptions, especially those who qualify for but aren’t receiving food stamps. The Food Bank’s Food Stamp Outreach Program helps to connect qualified people with food stamps, and along the way works hard to reduce the stigma associated with accepting this benefit — essential for so many individuals and families. I know that if I needed food stamps today, I wouldn’t hesitate to apply, Monopoly money or no.
Meet other Americans who benefit from food stamps, many of whom have struggled with the decision to accept help, in the New York Times’s “Food Stamp Use Soars, and Stigma Fades.”
by David Grossnickle
Top to bottom: Paula Deen and Food Bank President and CEO Lucy Cabrera; Trucks at our loading docks; Food Bank volunteers; all photos by Peter Dressler
View more photos!
An important source of protein, meat is a highly valued item that the Food Bank provides to New Yorkers who struggle to afford food for themselves and their families. Recently, long-standing partner Smithfield Foods, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, and Food Network celebrity cook Paula Deen helped make sure that New Yorkers are receiving the food and nourishment they need when they kicked off the Feeding the Hungry’ Coast-to-Coast Tour at our Bronx warehouse.
As part of the launch for this nationwide campaign, Smithfield made a generous donation to the Food Bank of more than one million servings of roasts, ribs, hams and other products. Not only was the food donation itself an amazing gift, but the media event held at our warehouse helped to raise awareness for our food distribution efforts. And it definitely didn’t hurt to have Paula Deen on hand at our 90,000 square-foot warehouse. After a brief statement to the press about the importance of recognizing the hungry among us and the essential work of the Food Bank, Paula enthusiastically declared, “Let’s unload those trucks!” A human chain — including Paula herself, Food Bank volunteers, President and CEO Lucy Cabrera and representatives from Smithfield, the UFCW and A&P Supermarkets — quickly formed to unload a truck full of hams.
The Smithfield trailers lined up to be unloaded at our warehouse docks was a wonderful site to see. Even more satisfying was, in the days to come, watching the protein-rich products being sent back out — this time in Food Bank trailers, en route to the more than 1,000 food assistance programs we serve. Our ability to receive, inventory and deliver food to hungry New Yorkers so quickly is a testament to all of our donors, partners and volunteers. Thank you all!
City Council is holding a hearing today to address the need for a living wage for all New Yorkers. The Food Bank has come together with our partners in the fight to end hunger to form the Anti-Hunger Caucus of the Living Wage NYC Campaign to support this important effort. Read the caucus’s letter to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn below and show your support by signing our petition to the City Council!
Dear City Council Speaker Christine Quinn:
We want to acknowledge and thank you for your tremendous leadership over the past several years to increase access to affordable, nutritious food for all New Yorkers. It is because of this leadership that we ask you, on behalf of the low-income New Yorkers we collectively serve, to support the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act (Intro. 0251-2010). This legislation would ensure taxpayer-funded economic development is a sound investment in living-wage jobs.
As you know, many low-wage full-time jobs, whether in retail or in other sectors of the city’s economy, do not pay workers enough to meet their households’ basic needs. We live in a city where the costs of many basic expenses — like housing, health care and food — are significantly higher than the national average. As a result, too many working New Yorkers who struggle to make ends meet are forced to rely on the services our organizations provide.
We share the belief that no full-time worker in this city should need to turn to a food pantry or soup kitchen to put food on the table. As with any measure that raises the incomes of low-wage workers, this legislation has the potential to stem an entrenched hunger crisis in New York City because it addresses the root cause of hunger — poverty — and it does so without expending any additional tax dollars.
Around the country, many cities have successfully enacted laws that establish a living wage standard for jobs created via taxpayer-funded economic development. It is in the best interest of New York City taxpayers and communities to replicate that success here.
Again, we thank you for your leadership in the fight against hunger in New York City. By joining the majority of City Council Members who already support the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act, you can attack hunger at its root, and lessen the poverty of many low-income New Yorkers who will be affected by this bill.
The Founding Members of the Anti-Hunger Caucus of the Living Wage NYC Campaign:
Food Bank for New York City, New York City Coalition Against Hunger, Hunger Action Network of New York State, City Harvest and Westside Campaign Against Hunger