NYC Food Pantries: How they are Helping our City + How you can Help

Last Friday, I woke up with an overwhelming sense of anxiety about the coronavirus. I then received messages about a shortage of food in the pantries around New York City (NYC), which provoked considerable concerns. Some days I have such a difficult time adjusting to the changes that are occurring from one day to the other, which I’m sure is the same for many of you. Things are out of control, and it’s terrorizing.

The only outlet for me is to do something anything which led to me researching pantries around New York City (NYC). After calling 60 plus pantries with no responses, I was discouraged. But I had to keep going — I began to gather email addresses and fax numbers.  After sending out 52 emails and 19 faxes, I received one response and have since received another three. I hope to receive many more over the next few days — that way, I can pass along the information I collect to you.

My first response came from an ex-marine — Jeanette Lugo. My hysteria turned into tears of gratitude and appreciation for everyone who is doing their best to help another human being.

Jeanette Lugo + Agape Food Rescue

Jeanette Lugo is the founder of Agape Food Rescue, located on Sutter Avenue in Brooklyn. A nonprofit organization whose mission is to build bridges between the food distribution industry and NYC residence in need. Currently, the goal of Ms. Lugo and Agape is to deliver food to the elderly, since they are at higher risk. However, she is not turning away anyone. She told a story of a woman with four children who had no food and the many families that are not seniors that they have made a priority to help.

What I gained from speaking with Ms. Lugo is a greater insight into the challenges of the food pantries around our aching city.

City Harvest and the Food Bank

In NYC, there is the Food Bank (a part of Feeding America network) and City Harvest. City Harvest is New York’s most prominent food rescue organization helping to feed 1.2 million New Yorkers who are struggling to put food on their tables. They rescue food and deliver it to food pantries, soup kitchens, and other community partners across the five boroughs. The Food Bank, on the other hand, stores and distribute food to smaller agencies. However, do not give out food directly to the general public. Their day to day operations has relied solely upon donations and volunteers.

Both of these agencies were created to help feed hungry Americans. However, there is a new demographic that has now emerged. “The people that have been greatly affected by the Coronavirus pandemic.” And then there are those who, in challenging times, look for ways to take advantage of the situation. These are the people who are holding on to their resources—and visiting Several pantries a day to get food that could have otherwise helped someone who needs it. They are the pantry-hoppers.

Throughout the year, we all try to support a variety of organizations. Whether it’s for a tax break or an act of kindness, we all try to make contributions in some ways. I have always wondered if the time came for these organizations to help — would they be willing to accept the task at hand? Hearing about what City Harvest, their staff, and other agencies are doing does put some things into perspective. They are tirelessly working to help — supporting smaller agencies, getting the food to people that can, in turn, get it to the people who need it.

Seniors and retirees operate many of NYC pantries. The population of people who are significantly affected by the coronavirus — and as a result, many of New York City’s pantries have shuttered.

The great news is there is food in New York City and a lot of it. The challenge is getting it to the people who need it, including our shelters. Soup Kitchens are closed, and our shelters still need to be operational. The residents still need food.

Several people are doing their very best to get food to the people who need it. Food pantries are still placing orders and are working together with City Harvest. Many pantries are closed, but the operational ones are trying to operate safely and responsibly. The rules of social distancing apply to everyone. These days the lines at the pantries are longer, and as human beings, we tend not to respect regulations when consumed with panic. Our fight or flight responses come into play — it becomes a survival thing. Many of the people visiting pantries are not respectful of social distancing or operating times.

While pantries are being of service and doing what’s right for the people who need them more than ever — there is also the possibility that they can be fine $500 if people visiting the pantry are not complying with social distancing.

Father Michael Lopez + The Hungry Monk Rescue Truck

Speaking with Ms. Lugo took me to Father Micheal Lopez, affectionately known as Father Mike. He is a priest at All Saints Church in Ridgewood and Executive Director of The Hungry Monk Rescue Truck. The Hungry Monk Rescue Truck is a NYC-based Homeless Outreach and Community Response Vehicle (CRV). Inspired by the Benedictine command of Hospitality for “all who knock at the door, “The Hungry Monk Crew aims to “Do Good” for brothers and sisters experiencing homelessness. They deliver quality hot meals to those in need and has since started COVID-19 expanded services. The expanded services include more pantry operational days, Saturday food outreach, and emergency food pantry delivery. The emergency food pantry delivery is for anyone who has been recently hospitalized or tested positive for COVID-19.

The Hungry Monk Rescue Truck

Father Mike is collaborating with many others during this coronavirus pandemic to benefit those in need — Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), Rethink food, and Council Member Antonio Reynoso. For the past twenty-something days, Father Mike has worked tirelessly with his team to deliver to 200 people within their emergency food pantry programs on Saturdays and is feeding 1600 families a week. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) gave a generous donation of $18,000, which has allowed Father Mike to continue his work. He has also rescued 220 thousand pounds of food from Rethink Food, an organization based in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Father Mike focuses his efforts in the Ridgewood and Bushwich neighborhoods in Brooklyn and family shelters in Bedstuy and Brownsville. And will continue to do his part during this crisis.

You can help Father Mike’s work by making monetary donations or/and volunteering by visiting HERE.

TCAH

TCAH was founded in Bed-Stuy in the basement of a church in 1998 as a small food pantry serving the community of Bed-Stuy. Dr. Melony Samuels serves as the founder and executive director of TCAH, (The Campaign Against Hunger formerly Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger). The organization has since grown in the past twenty years into a SuperPantry emporium. They also provide resources for nutritional education, workshops, and cooking demonstration. Along with their Far Rockaway Urban Agro-Ecological Center and Mobile, Pantry TCAH continues to serve Brooklyn and has expanded its services to include Queens and the Bronx. The goal of TCAH is to provide a balanced meal to those in need and is committed to doing the same during COVID-19.

The organization is providing more than 1,100 plus bags daily to help all those who need assistance. TCAH is accepting monetary donations and Volunteers. Any aid will help them to continue to provide the services and required food during this pandemic. They are running low/out on items such as pasta, cereal, rice, milk, beans, etc. which are needed goods, necessary to provide balanced meals. Donating will give them the resources to continue to help others. Providing 1,100 bags a day is no small task — employees and volunteers are doing their very best. However, Volunteers are much needed.

Make your monetary donations HERE. Volunteers are needed in the pantry (away from customers) but also on their farms: there are two central locations Saratoga Farm and  Far Rock Farm. In every case, social distancing, as well as providing gloves, masks, and aprons for volunteers is a priority. Volunteers can call Wanetta Bristol 718 773 3551 X115 or email volunteer@tcahnyc.org.

Brooklyn Rescue Mission (BRMUHC)

BRMUHC

BRMUHC was founded in 2002 by a group of clergy and community workers with a vision to service the hungry, hurting, and homeless people of Central Brooklyn with healthy fresh food. Rev. Robert Ennis Jackson and his wife, Reverend DeVanie Jackson, both co-founders, have remained true to that vision. The Bed Stuy Farm and Urban Harvest Center focus on providing farm-fresh foods in partnership with Grow NYC. While they are not serving as many farm-fresh foods during this time. Their shelf-stable environment (package and protected) dramatically reduces any concerns for contamination. BRMUHC serves some 1800 people, with 40% of the population being seniors. They were built to be smaller and have always practiced senior distancing and honored an appointment system. Only allowing eight people at a time with a max time of 15 minutes to grab and go — social distancing is not a concern as they maneuver COVID-19.

As an Urban Ministry and Food Farm, they are doing their part during the coronavirus pandemic and have seen a rise in pantry visitors of a younger population of all races. Rev. Jackson is very knowledgeable about the policies and designs surrounding food and is continuing to do his part along with his organization.

BRMUHC is accepting monetary donations through a GOFUNDME account to set up a delivery system to the seniors they serve. Volunteers are also welcome to work on the farm and the food pantry.

The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army needs little introduction. Founded in the ’60s to provide services of evangelism and social action. With a mission to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination. The Salvation Army is doing its part in coronavirus pandemic. Some of their Corps are providing soup kitchen and food pantry services, including food delivery to homes. Food delivery is especially beneficial to the senior population.

The Salvation Army is accepting donations — callers are directed to call 1-800-SATRUCK (pickups have been temporarily suspended because of COVID-19). You can go online and find the nearest red bin to donate. People can also give ONLINE HERE and mail-in checks.

Volunteers are also welcome, and if you’re interested in volunteering, you MUST BE IN GOOD HEALTH and not be in a high-risk category. A community engagement director is available to accept volunteer requests.

The Salvation Army COVID-19 hotline is (347-395-3943). You can call in or text, and they will do our best to answer any questions if anyone needs spiritual and emotional support that is also provided.

I’ve heard about food pantries, and I’ve driven by and saw the lines. But what I did not know is how it benefits and help our communities daily. Taking the time to learn and speak with the people who have dedicated their lives to extend kindness every day is humbling. The food system extends beyond feeding our homeless – it allows for anyone to supplement their resources without judgment. It provides for our elderly and retirees who are on fixed incomes. It serves as an additional resource for our single mothers or fathers and families who need a helping hand. The many people who have lost jobs and wages as a result of COVID-19 are also getting needed help. Ignorance allows us to live in our own worlds. Making us unaware of the challenges people just like you and I are faced with daily.

We are at a standstill without an end date for the coronavirus. We are told things will get worst before it gets better. There are ways for us to keep pushing forward. By taking care of ourselves, we can better care for our loved ones, and by extending kindness wherever we can — give us a newfound purpose and perspective to life as it is today. You may not be able to donate $1000, but maybe you can donate $1 or an hour of your time or perhaps just a kind word. But whatever you can give, I ask that you do — I’m asking you to click on one of those links (I will link them all below again) and help in any way you can.

I would like to thank Jeanette Lugo from Agape Food Rescue. Father Michael Lopez from The Hungry Monk Rescue Truck. Tamara Dawson from TCAH. Rev. Jackson from BRMUHC. And Tiffany Livingston from The Salvation Army. I appreciate the time you took to speak with me. You’ve educated me and provide me with helpful information to pass along. I’m forever grateful.

The Food Bank and City Harvest are excellent organizations, and I am pleased they exist today. But I believe the New York City food pantries are the real backbone to the food systems that are helping our communities.

So many of them do not have access to a large number of resources, yet every day they go out and help our community. But they too are in dire need of help. Without our help and government resources several other food pantries could close. I’m asking you to kindly pass this information along and once again I’m asking you to help in anyway you can. A heartfelt thank you to each of you.

As Always, I’m sending Love — Stay Safe.

Cheers

XXOO

Nat

Resources:

 

1386 Sutter Avenue – Brooklyn NY 11208

718-502-1928

agapefoodrescue@gmail.com

C/o All Saints Church

6859 60th Lane – Ridgewood NY 11385

347-592-5423

hungrymonknyc@gmail.com

  • Tamara Dawson — TCAH

2110 Fulton Street – Brooklyn NY 11233

Mail checks or Money Orders

P.O. Box 33532 – Brooklyn NY 11233

To Volunteer (Wanette Bristol)

718-773-3552 EXT 115

Volunteer@tcahnyc.org

  • Rev. Robert Jackson – BRMUHC

919 Gates Ave – Brooklyn NY 11221

GOFUNDME 

The Salvation Army

Salvation Army COVID-19 hotline (347-395-3943). People can call in or text and will try their best to answer any questions you may have. If anyone requires spiritual and emotional support is also provided.


The hotline is a source of referrals. If they do not provide a service you need — see helpful links below:

    • 211 for all callers outside of NYC and 311 for all callers in NYC

Articles like this one are written to offer practical advice, provide some entertainment, foster a sense of social cohesion, and remind us that life is still beautiful during these strange and isolating times.

 

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