BANK ON IT: Food Bank For New York City's Blog
by Daniel Buckley
With the mounting effects of the recession — including record-high unemployment rates — 2009 presented many challenges to the Food Bank For New York City. As the city's major hunger-relief organization, the Food Bank was there to help the 1 in 5 New Yorkers who rely on us to eat.
Check back later this week for a Letter from Lucy (Lucy Cabrera, Food Bank President and CEO, that is) recapping the past year and giving a glimpse into the year to come. Right now, please take a moment to view, learn from and enjoy highlights of the videos and photo slideshows that display some of the Food Bank's efforts and events of the past year.
Visit the Food Bank's YouTube channel for more videos from 2009, including videos featuring Food Bank President and CEO Lucy Cabrera, Food Bank Board Chair Rev. Henry Belin, board members Mario Batali and Stanley Tucci and other supporters including Gwyneth Paltrow and Michael Stipe.
The below photo slideshows were posted right here on Bank on It over the past year.
The Giants serve turkey at the Food Bank's Community Kitchen, from "Talking Turkey with Giants and Jets" by Ashley Goforth, Nov. 26, 2009
Chef One Dumpling Festival
Dumpling Man, giant dumplings, an eating contest and city Comptroller John Liu —all for hunger relief in "Dumpling for a Cause" by Daniel Buckley, Oct 29, 2009.
Taste of Tennis
Tennis's biggest stars including Andy Roddick and Vera Zvonareva; NYC's hottest restaurants including The Stanton Social and Double Crown; and Bethenny Frankel support the Food Bank at BNP Paribas' Taste of Tennis in "A Taste of Tennis" by Kate Hindin, Sept. 3, 2009
Fourth of July in Coney Island
In addition to being the most famous competetive eating contest in the world, the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest helps New Yorkers in need through its support for the Food Bank (and for those of you who get our e-newsletters, The Frankster's here!), in "Nathan's Famous on the Fourth of July" by Kate Hindin, July 13, 2009
For more photo slideshows, scroll through past postings on Bank on It...
By Phillip Cooke
Working on the Adopt a Food Program initiative, a partnership between the Food Bank For New York City and NYC Service, I have had significant contact with many of the food assistance programs in our citywide network. This is a diverse group of people serving a wide variety of needs, but I have noticed one constant: in the difficult economic times we are currently going through, food programs are struggling with a rising demand for their services.
Food pantries and soup kitchens are seeing an influx of working poor: people who work part-time, full-time and often multiple jobs, but still need a little extra help to feed themselves and their families. At the same time, available funding is decreasing as individual and institutional funders are coping with diminishing resources — leading many food programs to cut back on services.
This all might sound rather alarming, but there is hope. In a time of great need, volunteers have the opportunity to make a truly lasting impact. Working with many of these programs, I have seen firsthand how volunteers are providing organizations with the support they need not only to maintain, but to improve services. Volunteers also bring skills and ideas from their own life, such as grantwriting or marketing, that can contribute a fresh perspective to their adopted food program, enhancing collaboration and innovation.
In the past, I have seen so much accomplished by people working only for the knowledge that they are contributing to something much bigger than themselves. I love the enthusiasm and dedication volunteers bring to their work. So far I have seen that passion in the many groups and individuals involved with Adopt a Food Program, and I am excited to see the results of their hard work.
To adopt a food program in New York, please click here.
by Paul Hernandez
“If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere” — I can practically hear Frank Sinatra singing those words as my imagination conjures them. Why is that song stuck in my head? You might be surprised at first, but I have been hearing this song in my head when I’ve met some of the New Yorkers served by the Food Bank For New York City.
Sinatra himself clearly had made it in New York. But, I would argue, there are many more people to whom this statement should apply as well: the recipients and beneficiaries of the Food Bank’s programs and services.
Many of the people I’ve met who rely on the Food Bank have lived in New York City for many years, if not their whole lives. We’ve come to know them and their families through our citywide network of food assistance programs — including our Community Kitchen in Harlem — as well as our tax assistance, food stamp outreach and nutrition and health education programs. And we can certainly attest to the fact that they have “made it” here.
New York City’s working poor often find themselves holding down more jobs, for more hours, than is imaginable to many of us — on top of supporting children, attending school and caring for sick or elderly family members. Many of them are bilingual and multi-cultural — both accepting and knowledgeable about peoples and cultures from around the world. They are street smart and personable, reasonable and kind, quick to help and quick to tell someone when they aren’t helping. In other words, they’re New Yorkers, making it here every day, resting assured that they could make it anywhere, if they so choose.
Paul Hernandez, a recent graduate of Princeton University, works in the Food Bank’s Business Partnerships department.
By Jesse Taylor
Emily is in her 80s and reminds me of my grandmother. While she is independent, I can see that she finds it difficult to carry the heavy, meal tray to her seat at the Community Kitchen, where I work. So I, or a volunteer, do it for her. Last night, Emily smiled and thanked me about a half dozen times. I just smiled back, grateful to be able to help.
Emily sometimes brings her six-year-old granddaughter to our soup kichen to eat with her, and she’s told me on more than one occasion how grateful she is that the Food Bank For New York City is here for her during this period of her life. Living on a fixed income of Social Security and a small pension, it’s difficult for her to meet her budget every month and without our soup kitchen, she say’s she wouldn’t be able to eat.
No one aspires to be impoverished and rely upon soup kitchen meals for day-to-day survival, let alone work their whole life to then find themselves on a food pantry line — but with the economy the way it is, there are more senior faces in the Community Kitchen's dining room than ever before. So many Emilys with nowhere to turn but the Food Bank's network of soup kitchens, senior programs and food pantries.
But for our Emily there is good news. Recently came to the Community Kitchen — this time to be enrolled in the Food Stamp Program (now known as SNAP, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). And, while I’ll miss her visits, it’s great to know that once she begins receiving food stamps, we won’t be seeing much of Emily in the Community Kitchen anymore.
by Samuel Ching McGrath
With Mother’s Day coming up this Sunday, I have been thinking about a woman I met recently at a Food Bank member program, the Riverside Church Food Pantry in Morningside Heights. I already knew that women and children are two of the groups most at-risk for hunger in our city, but meeting Yolanda really helped me understand the reality of that situation.
Until recently Yolanda had been struggling to support her three sons with a low-wage job and food stamps to help fill in the gaps. She is a single mother, and is able to find help from her sister from time to time. But since Yolanda’s sister has a child of her own and takes care of their mother, there is only so much she is able to help.
When a friend told her about the food pantry at Riverside, it was a great relief. “I didn’t know these types of services were available,” she told me. “And I didn’t expect to get bags of food!” Now, when times are tough, Yolanda is still able to provide her sons with a home-cooked meal, using the groceries she can pick up at the food pantry.
I am always amazed by the strength of the Food Bank’s clients, and single mothers like Yolanda are often among the New Yorkers I am most impressed by. Although Yolanda struggles from month to month to support three young sons, she still has the energy to look for a way to give back to her community. "It's inspirational what the Riverside Church Food Pantry does for me and the local community,” Yolanda said. “This encourages me to want to give somebody else help and reach out whenever I can.”
If you can, we hope that you will consider making a donation to support all of the mothers like Yolanda who struggle to afford food in our city. A great way to do this right now is to make a gift in honor of your mother – sending her one of our new Mother’s Day eCards, including a card with a photo of Yolanda and two of her sons. Thank you!
Samuel Ching McGrath is The Food Bank For New York City's Individual Giving Manager
by John Walsh
In New York you see people waiting in lines for lots of things — book signings, giveaways, ladies’ (but never men’s) rooms, and concerts. And since I started working here at the Food Bank For New York City this past winter, I can now add another reason to line up outside, even in 15 degree weather: hunger.
Since starting here I have learned plenty — my affinity for the color orange, that members of the Food Bank’s culinary council can ham it up with the best of them — but mostly about the startling realities of hunger in our city. My eyes were first opened to the seriousness of the situation when I read the statistics highlighted in our research materials and on our website. For example, in New York City alone, approximately 3 million people have difficulty affording food for themselves and their families. In the past, when the topic of hunger was mentioned, the images that came to mind were of developing countries like Sudan and Ethiopia. But now I know that hunger looks like my neighbors too.
The experience that really brought home the severity of food poverty in our city was my first visit to the Food Bank’s Community Kitchen & Food Pantry in West Harlem last December. When we arrived I was surprised to see the number of people waiting outside in the freezing cold for food pantry service to start.
It was seeing these dozens of people standing in the freezing cold on an otherwise unremarkable weekday afternoon that truly made the statistic I mentioned above more than a number. Of the New Yorkers I met that day, some were elderly, some were there with their children, many were coming from work, and I would not have been surprised to see any of them at my subway stop or down the hall in my apartment building.