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

The Food Banker’s Guide to New York City

by Caitlin Buckley

When I started at the Food Bank last July, I changed not just jobs but cities — almost two weeks after my first day here, I went back to Somerville, MA, to finish packing, and the next day my boyfriend and I moved into our new apartment in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Until then, I had been a near-lifetime Massachusetts resident, and moving to New York City fulfilled a long-held wish. While much thought and discussion went into which borough to live in, we both felt sure that we wanted to be here.

Almost a year later, I still feel like a recent transplant, exploring my own neighborhood and making only occasional trips to other boroughs, but the Food Bank has taken me all over the city. Because of my job I’ve had so many places to go — Richmond Hill, Queens, to visit the River Fund; down to the ferry to travel to Community Health Action of Staten Island; up to the Bronx for a story on St. Ann’s Episcopal Church (stay tuned, it’ll be posted here soon!); and back to Brooklyn for a tour of Oneg Shabbos, a kosher food pantry in Borough Park — all members of the Food Bank's food program network. And volunteering at events has taken me even more places — Chelsea Piers for the Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival, Times Square for our Annual Agency Conference. And of course, I’ve been up and down the city visiting the Food Bank’s own locations — from our Downtown Manhattan office on Broadway, to the Community Kitchen & Food Pantry of West Harlem, to our warehouse up in Hunt’s Point, Bronx.

These travels have enriched my experience of New York City and introduced me to many more people than I would have met at a different job. I can’t wait to see where the Food Bank takes me next.

Want your own excuse to travel around New York City? Explore our volunteer opportunities today! Plus, fill out our online Volunteer Application and receive notices about special needs that may not get posted online.

A New Kind of Adoption

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!

Our Very Own Bank of America Hero

by Brian Pham

O’Neil Hutchinson, a dedicated Food Bank volunteer, guest blogger for Bank on It and a good friend of mine was recently named a Bank of America Hero in recognition of all the work he has done at our Community Kitchen & Food Pantry of West Harlem.

O'Neil Hutchinson and Jeff Barker, New York City President, Bank of America

While we think all of our volunteers deserve awards and recognition, we’re especially glad that Bank of America is able to help us celebrate O’Neil’s dedication to the community. Working nights on computer networking, O’Neil has been preparing, cooking and serving meals at our Community Kitchen two to three days a week for almost two years! Even if you ignore the extraordinary amount of time he donates to the Food Bank and forget for a moment how consistently he volunteers week after week, anyone who sees O’Neil in action immediately recognizes how much of a difference he makes at the kitchen. O’Neil takes his role at the Community Kitchen very seriously, and his dedication to the New Yorkers we serve is immediately evident. Let’s just say he has been confused as an actual Food Bank employee on more than one occasion — sometimes by actual Food Bank staff!

And — to top it all off — O’Neil’s award was given as part of Bank of America’s Neighborhood Excellence Initiative, which donates $5,000 to the organizations its heroes serve. Thanks to this gift given in O’Neil’s honor, the Food Bank will be able to provide 25,000 meals for New Yorkers in need. That is enough to provide nutritious meals for a family of five for close to four years! We couldn’t thank O’Neil enough for his phenomenal dedication to serving the community, and we are so gratified that we are not the only ones to recognize him as a hero. And thank you, Bank of America, for bringing attention to the value of volunteers and helping to provide meals for hungry New Yorkers.

One Week Left…

 By Daniel Buckley

…to Shop with Purpose for Christmas!
Download the Food Bank For New York City’s new We-Care Reminder, and when you shop online at any of the 800+ participating vendors – including Verizon, Amazon and the Disney Store – a percentage of your purchase will benefit the Food Bank. It takes 1 minute to download the plug-in and costs you $0 – do it today!

…to get the perfect stocking stuffers!
Pick up some Jacques Torres Bean to Bar chocolate bars and give your little ones something sweet that helps New Yorkers in need.

…OR LESS to order your holiday sweets!
Do you really have time for baking at this point? Order Ivy Bakery’s “Go Orange” cookies and cupcakes, save yourself some time and benefit the Food Bank.

…for that big holiday dinner shopping trip!
Look for our Check-Out Hunger display at the check out (where else?) of your local A&P, Fairway, Food Emporium, Foodtown, King Kullen, Pathmark, ShopRite or Waldbaum’s. Pick up a $1, $3 or $5 donation “coupon” and a gift in that amount will be automatically made to the Food Bank. Remember, ever $1 helps to provide 5 meals for our neighbors in need.

…to get that unique gift!
Send a loved one to Good Commons’s Winter Food & Wine Expedition in Vermont to enjoy winter activities, a private chef and all the warmth and comfort Good Commons provides!

It’s not really a full week — just wanted to make sure all you procrastinators realize….And, while it’s actually less than a week until Christmas, you have just a week and a half to make your tax-deductible, year-end donations! From all of us at the Food Bank For New York City, have a great Christmas, and good luck getting through the week!

Listening to Our Network

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.

Join the Jets & Giants to Vote for the Food Bank

By Daniel Buckley

Jets Inside Linebacker Bart Scott, Jets Linebacker Jason Taylor and Katina Taylor delivering turkeys at the Food Bank’s Community Kitchen & Food Pantry of West Harlem

With Thanksgiving just a few days away, the Food Bank has been selected by the MetLife Foundation for their first ever Thanksgiving Charity Score campaign.

For this campaign, MetLife will be donating $500,000 to four charities. Each charity will receive a generous donation from the MetLife Foundation, but the largest gift — $175,000 — will be donated to the organization with the most votes by November 28.

For this campaign, MetLife will be donating $500,000 to four charities. Each charity will receive a generous donation from the MetLife Foundation, but the largest gift — $175,000 — will be donated to the organization with the most votes by November 28.

In New York City, 1 in 5 people rely on the Food Bank For New York City. Your vote can make a huge difference, bringing $175,000 to the Food Bank in support of our efforts to make sure no New Yorker has to go hungry over the holiday season and throughout the year.

So, please cast your vote today! And don’t stop there – we need a critical mass of support if we are going to win this campaign, so please tweet your support, post a link on Facebook, or use the SHARE button below to post this entry to Digg, Care2 and hundreds of other sites.

With your support and enthusiasm for fighting hunger in New York City, we can win this campaign for the New Yorkers who rely on the Food Bank!

Root for the Yankees & the Food Bank

by Brian Pham

It was a rainy day, especially at 6:00 am. However, that did not stop almost twenty Food Bank volunteers from traveling up to an hour and a half to support us on the CBS Early Show and root for the Yankees as they headed into game one of the World Series!

The Food Bank was on the show last week because the Hunts Point Produce Co-operative Market — part of the largest wholesale food market in the world, located here in the Bronx — has issued a friendly wager with the Philadelphia Regional Produce Market over who will clinch the World Series.

If the Yankees win, the Philadelphia market will donate an entire truck load (10 tons) of produce to the Food Bank For New York City! And, if the Phillies win, the Hunts Point Market will donate the same to Philabundance, Philadelphia’s local food bank— so (sports fandom aside) this is really a win-win situation for hunger relief.

Not that we really need a new reason to cheer, but here in New York this is another great reason to root for the home team. And now that the series stands at Yanks-3, Phillies-1, tonight's game could clinch it for New York. Go Yankees!

Dumpling for a Cause

by Daniel Buckley

Dumpling Man!

view more photos by our volunteer photographer, Tran Dinh

see the photos I took while live tweeting from the festival

When I first heard about the Chef One Dumpling Festival back in August, I made sure that a volunteer slot would be saved for me. And, even though this outdoor event fell on a rainy day, I was really glad I had.

Not only did I get to shake hands with Dumpling Man; witness City Comptroller candidate John Liu and TMI CEO Terry Tang find out who could eat a dumpling fastest; and meet our tweeps The DCC (@thedcc) and Big Will the Champ (@bigwillthechamp) at the Chef One Dumpling Eating Contest – but I really enjoyed getting to meet the team at TMI.

An Asian-food company that produces Chef One and three other brands, TMI has been a dedicated Food Bank partner, donating more than 150,000 lbs. of food over the past two years. But what I was most impressed by was their staff’s enthusiasm for our cause. Whenever announcements were being made and throughout the eating contest, TMI representatives continually spoke about how important it was to them to involve the Food Bank and promote the fight to end hunger. Even while helping a TMI staff person clean up one of the festival’s booths, when I mentioned I work at the Food Bank, she immediately replied, “Oh! This event is for you!”

And TMI’s support just keeps coming – right now, when you buy their Tang’s Natural products at Whole Foods, a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Food Bank. So, get down to Whole Foods, look for the “Tang’s Natural Goes Orange” stickers and help support the Food Bank and this great, socially aware company – and enjoy the dumplings!

Strengthening Volunteerism in NYC

by Phillip Cooke

This year, almost two hundred volunteers will be doing their best to spur volunteering throughout New York City, and I am happy to count myself as one of them. The project that has brought us all together is the NYC Civic Corps, founded by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Our goal is to harness the power of New York’s population and focus it toward improving the city.

Myself and the close to 200 members of the Corps’s inaugural class have been assigned in small teams to about sixty public agencies and non-profit organizations throughout the five boroughs. For the next year, our jobs are designed to “pay it forward” while helping to create new, or develop existing, volunteer programs. Through doing this, the Civic Corps aims to strengthen our city’s network of volunteer programs and engage more New Yorkers in meaningful service, creating lasting changes in New York City

The Civic Corps is affiliated with Americorps VISTA, a national poverty reduction program; however it is unique and groundbreaking in its scale and focus. The corps is the first Americorps program with the mission to improve civic engagement throughout an entire city. At the same time, it is also the first program to foces on several local needs — including health, education and emergency preparedness. The ultimate goal for the Civic Corps is to create a model volunteer program to be adopted in cities across the nation.

Having been assigned to the Food Bank For New York City, myself and two other Civic Corps members have been given an incredible opportunity to help work towards the Food Bank’s goals. Be it childhood nutrition, tax assistance or improving community kitchens around the city, we have an opportunity to add our own small contribution to the greater good of New York City, the Food Bank and the Civic Corps.

Stay tuned for more on my role as a Civic Corps member at the Food Bank next month!

Wendy’s Takes Action For Hunger

by Brian Pham

Our supporters vary from individuals to large corporations to even local bakeries. Every year they become more and more creative in how they support our hunger-relief efforts. I've seen our supporters hold Virtual Food Drives, offer their staff as volunteer tax preparers for our massive Tax Assistance Program, donate proceeds from a bake sale and even create cause pages on Facebook to get their friends to donate money to us instead of buying them birthday gifts.

Most recently, and for the first time ever in NYC, Wendy's all over the five boroughs donated 10 percent of their proceeds from September 16, 4-8pm, to the Food Bank as a part of their Action For Hunger campaign. Think about it, there are just under 50 Wendy's in NYC, which are each typically very busy during dinner hours. Add up all that business and that is a lot of money raised to help New Yorkers in need! Not to mention, for every dollar raised, the Food Bank can help provide five free meals for New Yorkers in need!

But wait…that’s not it. Attending a dozen Wendy’s locations to support the campaign on September 16, our volunteers were able to recruit interested customers as Food Bank volunteers. It was a good day for the Food Bank.

Thank you supporters.
Thank you volunteers.
Thank you Wendy's.

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