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

As Schools Close, Summer Meals Opens

By Roxanne Henry,

New York City kids have now been on summer break for a full week. While more than a million children across the city are most likely still celebrating their newfound freedom, for parents and caregivers who struggle to afford food, this can be a time of heightened anxiety and concern. To get the most out of limited food budgets, many families depend on free or low-cost school meals for their children when school is in session. It’s no coincidence that the summer months see a spike in need among children at food pantries and soup kitchens.

Breakfast at a soup kitchen.
But with approximately 825,000 New York City public school students qualifying for free or reduced-price school meals, emergency food alone cannot make up the loss. The federally funded Summer Food Services Program (SFSP, also known as Summer Meals), however, provides a free breakfast and lunch at schools and other venues throughout the city, and is available to all children. Because too many families do not access the program due to a simple lack of awareness, the Food Bank For New York City works to connect low-income families to this great resource that helps keep food on the table for their children when school meals are not available.

To increase awareness and participation, the Food Bank:

  • Works with the NYC Department of Education to recruit members of our citywide network of soup kitchens and food pantries to help provide summer meals at their sites.
  • Provides information about the program, and the locations of SFSP sites to  all food assistance programs in our network, creating a broad outreach effort within New York City’s low-income neighborhoods.
  • Collaborates with a coalition of governmental agencies and anti-hunger organizations to aid in a citywide collaboration to expand the program.

The Food Bank’s goal is to ensure that as many children as possible receive free summer meals, which are also available at schools, parks, libraries, pools and other sites across the city.

For a full list of Summer Meals sites, click here. Wondering which site is closest to you? Check out our maps of site locations in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, Staten Island, and Queens. To learn more about the Food Bank’s comprehensive efforts to fight child hunger throughout the year, click here. Roxanne Henry is the Food Bank’s Community Outreach Manager.

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.

CHEFs for Schools, Inc. Cooks Up Volunteers for CookShop

by Alexandra Talbot

As the founder of CHEFs for Schools, Inc. – a tax-exempt nonprofit organization that strives to alleviate food inequality in underserved communities by training and placing student volunteers in worthwhile service opportunities - I am proud to support CookShop, the core nutrition education program of the Food Bank For New York City.

Since CHEFs’ inception in the spring of 2007, we have made tremendous strides toward our goals of improving food security, alleviating childhood obesity, and achieving food justice by supporting equal access to affordable and nutritious groceries. Our partnership with the Food Bank has been a major factor in reaching these goals.

I learned about CookShop while working as an intern at the Food Bank in the fall of 2008. CookShop is a federally-funded nutrition education program that helps children, teens and adults develop nutrition knowledge and cooking skills through hands on workshops. The program currently reaches approximately 30,000 New Yorkers, including students in more than 1,300 public elementary school classes and after-school programs.

I quickly realized the benefits of placing volunteers in CookShop Classroom for Elementary School, the program’s component for students in pre-K through second grade. Volunteers enjoy building relationships with elementary school students in underserved neighborhoods, and seeing the impact of their work as the children develop new skills and learn to make healthy food choices. By assisting the teachers, volunteers make CookShop even easier to implement, helping to increase the number of participating classrooms.

CHEFs helps recruit CookShop volunteers through a unique cultivation program in which university chapters offer educational, free and fun events that address bring students together around a shared interest in food issues. For example, the CHEFs for Schools’ Chapter at NYU offers free monthly cooking classes that unite and educate prospective and current volunteers around delicious, nutritious meals, while the CUNY Hunter Chapter will launch a food justice speaker series in the fall.

CHEFs aim is to recruit the most capable and motivated volunteers possible. The CookShop program requires no prior experience in public schools or food preparation, welcoming a wide variety of volunteers ranging from college students to working professionals. CookShop provides all volunteers with free training to improve their understanding of food preparation skills with elementary school children and demonstrate how to support a classroom during exploratory and cooking lessons.

I hope that you will join us in our efforts. Please take a moment to review the Food Bank’s various volunteer opportunities, including CookShop, and learn more about CHEFs’s efforts to impact food justice through volunteerism.

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!

Food Labels: Healthy Habits on the Flip Side

by Erika Tribett

Picture a shopper scanning a row of cereal boxes. She zeroes in on a bright box featuring a smiling cartoon character – delicious and fun, it seems! What she may not know, though, is that the cereal is chock-full of sugar – which, consumed in high quantities, can lead to health complications like diabetes, hypertension and obesity.

How can the shopper figure out if the cereal is the healthiest choice? The answer is on the flip side: turn the cereal box over to check out the food's Nutrition Facts, which outline the food's nutritional story, including the number of ingredients, recommended serving size, and the amount of sodium and dietary fiber.

Information about how to make healthy food choices, including how to interpret food labels, is what the Food Bank shares at nutrition workshops for our community-based member programs and with participants in CookShop, our federally funded nutrition education program. Below are some of the label-reading tips we suggest:

  • Be aware of the serving size – even if that bottle of soda or bag of chips from the vending machine looks like one serving, it may actually be two. If so, you'll need to double all of the label values to see the actual amount of nutrients you are taking in. (Better yet, Change One Thing and go for a bottle of water or piece of fruit instead!)
  • Check out the first five items listed under "Ingredients." These "First Five" are the ones included in the largest amounts. Watch out for added sugars, salt and any ingredients you have trouble pronouncing.
  • If you can't read it, don't eat it. Try to look for foods that are made from natural ingredients.
By learning label literacy, our workshop participants are armed with the know-how to debunk packaging myths, and are better equipped to make healthier meal choices. Try out these tips next time you shop!

Nutrition Ed Boot Camp Launches Exciting Changes for CookShop

By Carly Rothman Siditsky

Big changes are coming to CookShop this year, with big impact for New York City students and families struggling to make healthy, affordable food choices.

CookShop is the Food Bank For New York City’s largest nutrition education program, helping children, teens and adults gain the knowledge and skills to make nutritious food choices on a limited budget. On Saturday, at a daylong nutrition education boot camp, the Food Bank trained nearly 1,000 New York City public elementary school teachers and staff to implement the program.

The Food Bank also debuted a new name for CookShop’s component for parents and caregivers, CookShop for Families, and announced an exciting joint effort with SchoolFood to bring CookShop foods into school cafeterias. These changes could have especially far-reaching impact this year, as CookShop nearly doubles in size from approximately 15,000 to 28,000 participants.

Held at the headquarters of the United Federation of Teachers, Saturday’s training was the largest such event in CookShop’s 17-year history. Karen Alford, the UFT’s Vice President for Elementary Schools, and Chris Proctor, the organization’s Director of Health and Safety, were on hand to welcome attendees to the event, joining Áine Duggan, the Food Bank’s Vice President for Research, Policy and Education, and Jeannie Fournier, the Food Bank’s Director of Nutrition and Health Education.

Mildred Peguero, a kindergarten teacher at P.S./I.S. 180M who has implemented CookShop in her classroom for the past five years, also welcomed attendees to the training, sharing her own insights about the program’s impact. CookShop integrates well with the core subject areas like math, science and language arts, she said, adding she’s always impressed to hear her kindergarteners use sophisticated concepts to talk about nutrition.

“They know what they’re eating, and why it’s good for them. They know where the plants come from, and it’s not the store,” she said. The bottom line: “They have learned how to eat healthier.”

Saturday’s nutrition education boot camp featured hands-on cooking lessons and engaging nutrition seminars, through which participants develop the nutrition knowledge and cooking and food safety skills they will pass on to their students when the program begins in December. This year, CookShop will be taught in approximately 1,300 public elementary school classrooms and after-school programs.

But CookShop’s impact will also reach beyond the classroom. CookShop for Families (formerly CookShop for Adults) is offered in schools that implement CookShop Classroom for Elementary School. With workshops that complement the children’s curricula, CookShop for Families’ new name emphasizes its core goal: involving whole families in preparing meals and choosing food. Similarly, CookShop’s partnership with SchoolFood aims to engage entire school communities in the program’s lessons about why and how to eat wholesome foods including fruit, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.

Without School Lunch & Breakfast, Kids Need Summer Meals

by Roxanne Henry

Last week my nephew completed kindergarten, and began his summer vacation along with all the other children in the New York City public school system. It was an exciting week for sure, but also the week that hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren lost access to free and low-cost school breakfast and lunch. Instead of wondering which camp or summer activities their children should partake in, many of these families will have to worry about having enough food to eat during the summer.

As an aunt, I am very involved in my nephew’s life. Playing an integral role in a child’s development underscores the importance of alleviating harsh realities like child hunger. This reality makes my role as the Food Bank’s Community Outreach Manager so important: I advocate for better access to federal Child Nutrition Programs like the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP, or Summer Meals).

Recognizing that more children rely on emergency food during the summer, we work with the NYC Department of Education to recruit members of our citywide network of soup kitchens and food pantries to help provide summer meals at their sites. The Food Bank will support these sites by assisting with community outreach, developing activities to promote participation and providing additional program support. Our goal is to ensure that as many children as possible receive free summer meals, which are also available at schools, parks, libraries, pools and other sites across the city.

My hope is that, with support from the Food Bank and SFSP, New York City children will only have to think about where they want to play this summer, and not where their next meal may come from.

Principals: CookShop Helps Students, Families Make Healthy Choices

by Katherine Mancera

As today is the last day of public school in New York City, it is a perfect time to reflect on an exciting year of CookShop, the Food Bank’s nutrition education program. Our workshops for children, teens and adults reached more than 15,000 people in all five boroughs, including students in more than 700 public elementary school classrooms.

Last year, in a survey of participating teachers, more than 97 percent reported their students more likely to try a new healthy food because of CookShop, while 96 percent reported their students want to eat healthier and 92 percent said their students are making healthier food choices because of CookShop.

This year, participating principals sent letters describing their CookShop success stories, and we were thrilled to hear their rave reviews. We’re especially excited that so many people involved with CookShop will continue cooking and eating fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains at home. Here are a few of their stories:

“CookShop became a catch phrase in our building, and the amount of enthusiasm it built among our teachers and students was amazing. The children in grades pre-K to second and in our special needs class learn to make healthy, nutritious recipes that they eagerly share with their parents at home. CookShop’s lessons have students readily eating vegetables in our cafeteria that my nutritionist and our parents have told me they were not eating before. It provides a bonding experience, a motivational tool and a new way of talking about food and nutrition for our teachers, our parents and our students.

“CookShop is an essential weapon in our healthy-living, healthy-eating fight to change the obesity rates in our school and in our neighborhood.”
—Harold Anderson, Principal, C.S. 21 – Crisups Attucks Elementary School

“Our cook tastes the recipes and is going to start serving [CookShop] dishes at lunch time. This program has not only taught our community about healthy eating, but it has brought our community together.…Parents are volunteering in the classroom and cooking with the staff.”
—Carin Ellis, Principal, P.S. 212 Queens – School of CyberScience and Literacy

“The teachers and students love the program. I just walked into a bilingual classroom and it was the first time they have seen cauliflower and collard greens. They were amazed with the texture.”
—Melissa Acevedo-Lamarca, Assistant Principal, P.S. 19 Queens

“This is the first year my school is participating in the program and we LOVE IT!!! My little kindergarten, first and second grade students enjoy Fridays when their teachers do the CookShop lessons. I often have a little visitor coming to give me a small sample of what they made in class. My kids are always eager to explain what they made and how they did it.”
—Vanessa Christenses, Assistant Principal, P.S. 48 Queens – The William Wordsworth School

“This Thanksgiving my family had a potluck and we all had to bring something. My sister, who teaches second grade at a school in the Bronx, surprised us with the three-bean salsa, which she too learned to make in CookShop at her school. This was full circle for me…CookShop is touching the lives of so many near and far. It makes me smile every time I think of my sister serving a CookShop dish at Thanksgiving because she knows we all need to eat healthier.”
—Dora Danner, Assistant Principal, P.S. 17 – The Henry David Thoreau School

As improving child nutrition becomes a national priority, the Food Bank is proud of CookShop’s success in moving children and families toward a healthier lifestyle — and is working to bring the program to more communities in need.

Katherine Mancera is the Food Bank's Public Education Associate. For more information on our CookShop program go to www.foodbanknyc.or/go/CookShop, or watch our CookShop video below:

A Visit to St. Ann’s Episcopal Church

by Caitlin Buckley

From top: Alberta, a soup kitchen client and member of St. Ann's congregation; St. Ann's board member Virginia Potter catching up with congregation member Florence Taylor during soup kitchen service; Cynthia Black, a cook at St. Ann's soup kitchen; photos courtesy of Scott Waddell

The South Bronx is one of the poorest areas in the nation, and food poverty is widespread in the neighborhood of Morrisania, home of St. Ann’s Episcopal Church, one of the Food Bank’s network members. For more than a century, the church has been a Bronx landmark — in fact, it is the first church in the Bronx — but St. Ann’s has grown into an innovative and esteemed community resource.

St. Ann’s operates a food pantry and soup kitchen, as well as after-school and summer programs for children, which incorporate nutrition education along with field trips, healthy snacks and exploration of the church’s vegetable garden. Cynthia, who cooks at the soup kitchen, moved to New York from the West Indies and has been a member of the St. Ann’s congregation for 20 years. “We are a family,” she says, and many members of the church both volunteer and rely on the church’s services. Alberta, a senior living on social security, first came to St. Ann’s for the food pantry and has joined the community. “I get food stamps now, so I don’t need the pantry as much, but I feel right at home here,” she says.

St. Ann’s is led by the Rev. Martha Overall, an ardent and compassionate leader in the fight against hunger. Author and educator Jonathan Kozol has chronicled her work, and Bernice King, who helps run the kitchen and after-school meal program at St. Ann’s, says, “She makes sure that we can feed everyone nutritious food…and she cares.”

Bernice is proud that St. Ann’s is helping meet the needs of its neighbors. “Whatever we have to do, we’ll do,” she says. “We have a lot of seniors who come to us, and they’re ashamed. They’ve worked their whole lives, and they don’t want to take help. But [they find] a community here.”

Originally featured in Food for Thought Spring 2010, the Food Bank's print newsletter.

A Fishing Story from the Bronx

by David Grossnickle

 photo courtesy of the New Fulton Fish Market

The New Fulton Fish Market Cooperative houses 37 seafood wholesale businesses at its site at the Hunt’s Point Terminal Market in the Bronx. The largest wholesale seafood market in the country, worldwide the New Fulton Fish Market is second only to the Tsukiji Market in Tokyo, Japan. And many of their seafood wholesalers are regular food donors to the Food Bank.

Walking through the market can be described only as an amazing tour of seafood from the eastern seaboard, and the world. There are common varieties such as herring, flounder and striped bass that are plentiful. But less-known varieties such as Spanish mackerel, sturgeon and cuttlefish are also in regular supply.

The health benefits of eating fresh seafood are well documented. Fresh seafood is nutrient-rich and provides a high-quality source of protein in the diet. Since fish is naturally low in fat but rich in omega-3 fatty acids or heart healthy fats, the American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of seafood per week. All of the seafood wholesalers at the New Fulton Fish Market, especially Blue Ribbon Fish Company, Carl’s Seafood, GC Dino’s Seafood, Fair Fish Company and Joe Monani Fish Company help the Food Bank distribute their donations directly to members of our food assistance network — helping to ensure that New Yorkers in need are able to enjoy both the taste and health benefits of fresh seafood.

Next time you eat seafood, remember the market and all that they do to help hungry New Yorkers — because, with millions of pounds of fresh seafood moving through the market every day, there is a very good chance the seafood you‘re eating came from the New Fulton Fish Market. Thank you to the wholesalers and the New Fulton Fish Market for providing a wonderful source of seafood to our network!

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