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

Our Emily

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.

The New Yorkers Who Amaze Me the Most: Single Mothers

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

Learning that Hunger Looks Like My Neighbors Too

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.

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