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


Letter from Lucy: Spring 2010

Dear Friends,

President Obama’s commitment to end child hunger by 2015 comes at a critical time. Right now, New York City’s food assistance organizations are struggling to meet the increased needs of a city devastated by unemployment, lost savings and the high cost of living, and many families with children have been hard hit by the recession.

Of course, no matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow, and I hope that in time we will begin to see signs of relief after such a long and brutal economic storm. For now, however, there is still a real and immediate need that must be met. The troubled economy has tried everyone’s resilience — from the city’s poorest, who have struggled with adversity and found themselves fighting even harder to survive, to the newly unemployed, who have turned to food stamps and food pantries for the first time.

I have worked with the Food Bank for more than 20 years to make sure that each of those individuals finds help when he or she needs it. Together, the Food Bank, our network and our supporters like you have worked hard to keep New Yorkers from falling through the cracks — New Yorkers like Alberta, a mother and retiree who came to St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in the Bronx for emergency food and stayed to become a member of a community that supports and looks out for her. Or the many working families and individuals who turned to the Food Bank’s Tax Assistance Program this year — a simple initiative that brings millions of dollars in federal tax refunds into our city.

Your support and dedication help keep programs like these fully funded. The Food Bank is there for New Yorkers in need, and I am grateful to you for standing beside us.

Sincerely,

Lucy Cabrera, Ph.D., CAE
President and CEO

Peanut Butter: Not Just for Sandwiches Anymore

by Daniel Buckley

It is very important to the Food Bank For New York City that all of the food we receive makes it to a New Yorker who needs it. While this is a bit of a no-brainer, making sure it happens can be more difficult than you might expect.

At times, food assistance programs can be wary of ordering certain products that they are not sure how to cook with, or if the ethnic community they serve won’t be familiar or know what to do with it.

Knowing this, our Community Nutritionist works to build awareness in our network for the benefits and potential use of different products. For just one example, here is a piece our nutritionist wrote about peanut butter for one of our Agency E-Newsletters:

While most people think of peanut butter as an American food mostly eaten by children, the origin and use of peanuts in cooking can be traced back to countries around the world and dates back as early as prehistoric times. Currently, the United States produces about 7 percent of world's peanuts, with China, India, Nigeria, Indonesia, Myanmar, Sudan, Senegal, Argentina and Vietnam also making significant contributions.

Peanuts are a highly nutritious source of plant protein, with each tablespoon serving acting as a replacement for one ounce of protein recommended in the diet. While peanuts are high in fat, they contain unsaturated fats, which provide benefits for heart health. Peanuts have also been found to be a good source of antioxidants and reservatrol, which is known for its cancer-fighting, anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties.

While peanuts are commonly eaten in whole form as snacks, peanut butter has become a popular ingredient in various types of Asian cooking as well as being used in soups, sauces, casseroles and baking.

And, to further help things along, we provided a list of healthy Peanut Butter Recipes — enjoy!

New York Soda Tax Would Hurt, Not Help, Low-income Families

by Carly Rothman

Some powerful New York officials are throwing their weight behind a proposed soda tax, arguing the added cost — an extra penny per ounce — will deter consumption, fight obesity and reduce health care costs.

The New York Times editorial board also supports the tax, saying it would help limit soda intake in low-income neighborhoods where diet-related diseases are particularly prevalent.

“Poorer people, who lack healthy food choices, too often overload on sugar-laden soft drinks,” read an editorial in the paper last week.

But the dearth of choices is just the point. The reason low-income consumers disproportionately suffer from obesity, diabetes and other diet-related diseases is that soft drinks, fast food and other foods and beverages high in added sugars and fats are cheaper and more readily available than healthier alternatives.

The soda tax might make the sugary drinks less appealing, but it would do nothing to lower the cost of healthy alternatives like milk or vitamin-rich juices, nor improve food access in neighborhoods without supermarkets or grocery stores.

In other words, the regressive soda tax supported by Governor Paterson and Mayor Bloomberg would punish low-income families for buying soda without offering better alternatives. Meanwhile, the tax will cut into families’ limited food dollars, making it even harder to afford healthy foods like fruit, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and legumes.

Both the Governor and Mayor note the tax will create an important revenue stream during the ongoing fiscal crisis. We are sensitive to this need — particularly since Mayor Bloomberg has threatened, in response to proposed state budget cuts, to eliminate all city funding for emergency food assistance.

And helping people make healthy diet choices is an important part of the Food Bank’s work. CookShop, our nutrition and health education program, teaches more than 15,000 New Yorkers of all ages about how to read food labels and make healthy, cost-effective food purchases. Our social marketing campaign, which reaches more than 100,000 low-income teens, urges them to “Change One Thing,” swapping junk food for healthy alternatives — and specifically encouraging a switch to water from sugary drinks.

While we applaud public officials’ desire to fight diet-related disease and steer consumers away from soda, we urge them to do so by expanding poor consumers’ options, not limiting them.

Existing programs like the FRESH (Food Retail Expansion to Support Health) initiative would provide incentives for supermarkets and grocery stores to open and expand in high-need neighborhoods — and require them to accept food stamps and WIC benefits to ensure they remain affordable and accessible to low-income consumers. New York’s Healthy Food/Healthy Communities Initiative would help finance store improvements to increase capacity for sales of fresh, healthy food.

Measures like these, which lift barriers, expand choice and empower individuals, should be the approach of all food policy — not programs that hurt the people they aim to help.

For more information, read our testimony before the State Senate Health Committee on the sugar-sweetened beverage tax.

Share your thoughts: what do you think about the impact of the soda tax on low-income New Yorkers?

The Distance Between Food Labels and Healthy Eating

by Daniel Buckley

I recently came across a New York Times video in which William Nuemann discusses the difference between food labels and the way people actually eat. As the leading organization working to fight food poverty in New York City, the Food Bank works hard to create a healthy New York — and understanding food labels is very important part of building a healthy diet for yourself and your family.

If you are trying to lose weight or fight high blood pressure — and if, like most New Yorkers, you have very little time to put toward building the perfect, balanced menu every night — you are probably going to glance at that label for the amount of fat or sodium contained. Then what happens?

The Food Bank’s Community Nutritionist, Christina Riley, offers regular workshops to help our food assistance network answer that exact question. Each lesson starts by asking participants to note how many servings are in a can of food, then determine how that effects the nutrition facts on that label. At a glance, the label on a can of green beans appears to say that the beans provide 15 percent of your daily value of sodium. However, a can of beans has 3.5 servings — and if you eat the whole can, you need to multiply the sodium by 3.5. This means that the can actually contains 52.5 percent of your daily value of salt. And that leaves precious little room for salt in the rest of your meals or snacks that day if you are going to stay in a healthy range. Just thinking about trying that has my blood pressure rising.

If you don’t read carefully and do a little math, you can easily be misled — but I won’t go on about that, since William Nuemann says it so well:

In the News: NY1, Huffington Post, The Economist and More

Food Bank For New York City continually works to raise awareness and support for hunger relief through media outreach and information sharing. Here are highlights of the recent stories that have featured the Food Bank:

NY1, “Food Bank Offers Free Tax Help As Uncle Sam Offers Sizable Tax Credit”
With tax season officially in full swing, the Food Bank For New York City, elected official and government agencies join forces to make sure New Yorkers get back every penny they deserve…read more [Includes VIDEO]

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, “Free Tax Site Helps Brooklynites File for EITC Credits”
The Food Bank partners with the Brooklyn Community Foundation and Capital One Bank to provide tax assistance for the working poor in northern Brooklyn as part of our Tax Assistance Program...read more

The Huffington Post, “My 2010 Wish List for NYC”
Gordon Campbell, President and CEO of United Way NYC, brings in the New Year with a loud cheer and his recommendations of achievable goals for 2010 that will help low-income New Yorkers…read more

The Economist, Letter to the Editor
Food Bank For New York City President and CEO Lucy Cabrera responds to “The Big Apple Is Hungry,” published in January 2010 by The Economistread more

The Packer, “Produce Industry Contributes Heavily to Feeding New York’s Hungry”
The Packer — the leading source of news for the fresh fruit and vegetable industry — explores the Food Bank’s food distribution efforts, which provided more than 13 million pounds of fresh produce for New Yorkers in need in fiscal year 2009…read more

After Surgery, President Bill Clinton Calls for Better Child Nutrition

by John Leggio

Former President Bill Clinton speaking at the Food Bank's 2009 Can-Do Awards Dinner; photo by Tran Dinh

Here at the Food Bank, we work to improve child nutrition because we know kids’ food choices can have lifelong health effects. Last week, at a press conference in Harlem, former President Bill Clinton said he learned that lesson the hard way.

After surgery for blocked arteries at NY Presbyterian-Columbia University Medical Center, President Clinton "weighed in" on the childhood obesity epidemic while speaking for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.

“The root cause of this was habits that I acquired in my childhood,” Mr. Clinton, who also had a quadruple bypass operation in 2004, said.

Mr. Clinton (who spoke at our 2009 Can-Do Awards Dinner) also gave a shout-out to First Lady Michelle Obama for her “Let’s Move” campaign, which will tackle the obesity epidemic by helping families make healthy food choices, improving the quality of school food, encouraging exercise and increasing food access.

We’re working to meet similar goals through programs like CookShop, which encourages the development of healthy diets among New York City students and their families, as well as community outreach and advocacy on issues like universal school meals.

With work like ours — and similar efforts from a dynamic duo like the former president and the current first lady — maybe we can protect more children from the outcomes of poor nutrition.

Our New Year's Resolutions

by Daniel Buckley

It’s that time of year again, when we use the passing of another year to wipe the slate clean, consider how to add meaning to our lives or reflect on what our lives are missing and make resolutions for the future.

As the major hunger-relief organization addressing food poverty within the five boroughs, the Food Bank For New York City promotes healthy eating and fitness — staple New Year’s resolutions — and asks our supporters to do what they can to make a difference throughout the year.

Here is a selection of resolutions from our staff. We hope that our work inspires you throughout the year to take actions that will make a difference in your life and the lives of New Yorkers in need — and maybe our personal resolutions can add that extra a bit of inspiration to help make your New Year’s resolutions a reality.

Triada Stampas, Director of Government Relations & Public Education
“I resolve to eat more vegetables!”

Heather Joseph, MS, Volunteer Services Manager
“I plan to run a half-marathon — so that includes changing my diet, returning to the gym and starting to run outdoors. I also will be returning to Bikram Yoga.”

Roxanne Henry, Community Outreach Manager
“This year, I hope to begin a new chapter in my life, so I do not see it as a New Year’s resolution, but I resolve to be more present and conscientious in all that I do: in eating well, in being good to my body, when speaking to people, in my work, etc. I claim this aspiration with all honesty and sincerity!”

Ashley Goforth, Communications & Marketing Assistant
“My New Year’s resolution is to get my roomies to donate to the Food Bank member food pantry that is across the street from our apartment. They just found out there was a pantry there a few weeks ago.”

Claire Elyse LaRoche, Business Partnerships Assistant
“I intend to spend more time biking around Brooklyn in 2010.”

Catharine Bufalino, Director of Communications & Marketing
“My resolution is to cook for every person I love in the coming year. Geography allowing — I’ll aim to give them the healthiest, most delicious meal I can conjure. Wish me luck!”

John Leggio, CookShop for Adults Associate
“I resolve to spend more time jogging with my dog Ovie.”

Caitlin Buckley, Communications Manager
“As a vegetarian but not a vegan, I resolve to consider animal welfare when shopping for eggs and dairy products.”

Kim Keller, Director of Member Services
“My New Year’s resolution is to go to the gym on a consistent basis. I usually maintain a good three-day-a-week workout schedule for about three months, then fall off the wagon for about three months, then get back on. This year I want to maintain my schedule at two days a week — every week.”

Daniel Buckley, Online Communications Manager
“I resolve to eat less meat and more vegetables, and be more conscious of farming practices for the meat that I buy.”

Christina Riley, MS, RD, Community Nutritionist
“I joined a gym so I can start training for a relay marathon in the spring and attend yoga classes on a regular basis to improve my fitness and encourage a little more relaxation in my life.”

Kate Hindin, Business Partnerships Manager
“My resolution is to be more carefree and fearless. Stop worrying, start living!”

Roasts, Ribs and Hams, Oh My!

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!

Thanks Yanks

by Daniel Buckley

taken from the Food Bank office window

Follow us on Twitter for more!

Thank you Yankees for winning the World Series — and winning a 10-ton produce donation for the Food Bank from the Philadelphia Regional Produce Market!

Celebrating the Yanks's win, the Food Bank will be hanging a thank-you banner out of our office window, on the 10th floor of 39 Broadway, during this morning's ticker tape parade — so keep an eye out if you go downtown or are watching on TV!

All About the Apple

by David Grossnickle

While leaving the Food Bank’s warehouse the other day, I looked at a load of apples we had just received from a family farm located in upstate New York. Food Bank For New York City has recently expanded our partnerships with upstate food banks and farmers to procure more local produce. The approximately 33,000 pounds of cortland, red delicious and macoun apples were in beautiful, just-picked condition. I was glad to know the apples would be distributed quickly the next morning to the soup kitchens and food pantries we serve.

On my trip home, I had a serious apple craving, so I stopped by a local market and bought a few apples. When I arrived at home, my six-year-old daughter had just finished her dinner. After discussing our days she asked, “Hey pops, can I have snack?” I told her about the apples we received at the Food Bank and gave her one of the apples I had just bought. Needless to say, my daughter enjoyed eating the apple. Watching her meticulously eat it reminded me of the hungry New Yorkers that receive the apples and other food we distribute.

A recent Food Bank survey found that more than nine in every ten (93 percent) emergency food programs in our network are experiencing an increase in the number of individuals accessing their services for the first time. Additionally, more than two-thirds (70 percent) of our emergency food network experienced an increase in the number of children accessing emergency food.

In this time of increased need, I am proud that the Food Bank is not only helping to provide meals for hungry New Yorkers; but that we are helping to provide healthy, locally grown meals. Since July, we have distributed almost 700,000 pounds of New York State produce. And more is coming in each day.

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