BANK ON IT: Food Bank For New York City's Blog
By Margarette Purvis,
I love the holiday season. For me, it always means longer time spent with my mom and more quiet time to reflect on the New Year. This year because of my recent move to the city I was excited to return to the South and find new things to add to my “to-do” list. I decided to hit up places that I’ve missed over the last three months. So I went to my favorite walking trail to take in the beautiful trees and etched mountain. You would think of all places, here is where I would find holiday enlightenment. Not so, I found it where you’d least expect.
But before anyone tries to outfit me in bedazzled Birkenstocks...I should probably be clear. I only went to the trail ONCE. It’s the South and what you’ve heard is true: The food is ridiculously yummy! It should come as no surprise that much of my holiday “to-do” list was about what “to eat.” I received great joy from a tour of my favorite FOOD JOINTS. Because the Food Bank is a proud provider of healthful nutrition education services to a citywide network of charities and schools, I’ll spare you the details of my indulgences. Just know, that I went, I saw, I ATE.
It was at one of my final stops that my life was forever affected. This particular place not only has my favorite French fries, the owner is someone who I truly respect and he provides some of the best customer service around. It’s also a hot spot for youth from the community. While sitting there, three teen boys walked in. I noticed them because they arrived carrying empty cups (from the restaurant and the nearby Target) and parked themselves next to me and the soda fountain. When I saw them I smirked a little. My mind went back to being a teen at a local donut shop in Nashville. I remembered hanging with kids named Jeff and Stuart, who didn’t look too different from these boys, and the mischief we would get into after school.
Anyone looking at these boys probably thought they saw characters from an Abercrombie or J. Crew ad. They were scraggly haired, green- and brown-eyed All American teenagers. They were no different than any group you may find at any burger joint...except for one thing. I noticed that these boys never bought any food. They walked in with empty cups and proceeded to eat the free peanuts. They were missing the bravado of the boys I knew as a kid. They seemed too nervous to get the “free refills” as my childhood friend Peter named it. They ate so many peanuts that they kept my attention. Watching them made me think of my eleven-year-old godson, who as a growing athlete can put away so much food it boggles the mind. My godson is about three years younger than these boys, and he would NEVER be satisfied at 1pm with a bowl of peanuts. As I looked back at them, I heard one ask, “so what did you have for Christmas?” His friend, who looked no older than 13, said, “nothing…she didn’t have it.” I looked away from my BlackBerry and thought "Why haven’t they ordered something?"
As one of the boys caught me looking at them…they all decided to get up to leave. I watched as one placed his never filled cup in the garbage and almost looked away as the second boy joined him. And THAT’s WHEN I SAW IT: The second teen pretended to throw his cup away and instead reached in and GRABBED FOOD OUT OF the GARBAGE. I wasn’t the only person to see it. Across the room, another woman looked…stunned. I watched her grab her chest as we both stared at each other, blinking for a second. When I looked outside there were two of the boys, looking inside of the “rescued” bag and shoving the contents into their mouths as they hurriedly walked away.
I ran outside to get their attention and they nervously ran (without coats) between the cars as if they’d done something wrong. They had not, but I wasn’t sure if I had. Holiday haze or not, I know a simple fact: Millions of families rely on school meals to supplement their food needs and this was a REALLY LONG BREAK for families with little to no food. Hunger does not take a holiday and it does not discriminate. The needs of “growing boys” are the same in every household regardless of whether mom and dad can afford to meet them.
As I reflect on the New Year and the ideas and programming that I soon hope to share with our supporters and partners, I keep coming back to the notion of a “communal gift.” Whether you celebrated Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa there are lights involved. There was the light from the North Star, lights from the menorah and lights for Kwanzaa symbolizing direction for community actions. During my holiday break, I didn’t see a major light but I found ENLIGHTENMENT from three boys. Three hungry boys in a room filled with adults demonstrated how people can struggle in plain view. Three boys showed the leader of a Food Bank what the stigma around being an impoverished adult looks like in their children. These three boys did not “reveal” to me that hunger exists. I already know that. But these boys gave me a REMINDER of the URGENT NEED to help as many of us give the best gift to the neediest among us and that is our ATTENTION. Families are struggling all over this country. We can never say that we’re willing to ACT if we have not first trained ourselves to truly SEE. In 2012, I’m looking forward to launching new, dynamic programs to help as many New Yorkers SEE hunger for what it is and then CHANGE how many of our neighbors and friends experience it. We’ll keep the light on and hope you’ll keep an eye out and choose to join us!
With the New Year just a few days away, you have probably already spent some time – or told yourself you’re going to spend some time – thinking about your resolutions for 2012. One of the Food Bank’s central goals is to help build a healthier city through nutrition education – and within the CookShop team, we are resolving to inspire more New Yorkers to Change One Thing and build a healthier lifestyle.
A social marketing campaign that encourages New Yorkers to improve their health by making small changes to their diet, Change One Thing can be a great model for your own resolutions. Rather than resolving to hit the gym four days a week or to kick fried foods once and for all – c’mon, who are you kidding? – why don’t you drink water instead of that daily soda, or pick up some fruit instead of that bag of chips at lunch?
We asked some of our CookShop students and members of the Food Bank network to tell us what they would change in the New Year….
George , CookShop Classroom Student, PS180M
"Instead of eating meat, I would eat carrots. Instead of drinking milk with fat in it, I would drink soy milk. Instead of drinking juice, I would drink water."
Laura Smith, CookShop Classroom Parent Coordinator, PS 47X
“I’d like to exchange my dinner roll with a new vegetable every night .”
Russell, EATWISE peer educator , New Dorp High School
“I’d like to drink water throughout the day and eat vegetables three times a day.”
Marcia, Customer, Food Bank Community Kitchen & Food Pantry
“In the new year I hope to get less meat and more vegetables. I want my whole family to participate. My husband is diabetic and I want to prevent my children from being diabetic too.”
Margarette Purvis, President and CEO, Food Bank For New York City
“Locally grown food is so important. So, in 2012 I'm going to take a stab at gardening. I think I'll start with herbs and tomatoes!”
So how about YOU? What’s your Change One Thing resolution for the new year?
Although this is only Daisy Carusillo’s second year implementing the Food Bank’s CookShop Classroom curriculum at PS 24 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, she handles the job like an old pro.
I recently had the pleasure of seeing Daisy in action as she instructed a roomful of new CookShop teachers at a training session one evening this fall. After a full day in their own classrooms, the teachers had arrived looking a little weary. But as Daisy led a mock Chef Lesson (a cooking activity in which students help prepare nutritious, kid-friendly recipes) it was clear that these lessons are her favorite part of the CookShop Classroom curriculum – and it was impossible for the tired teachers to resist Daisy’s infectious energy and humorous anecdotes. Plus, it didn’t hurt that the tangy batch of Peachy Orange Salsa they were preparing smelled so great.
“This is where nutrition education takes on a whole new life,” Daisy said. “The actual handling of the produce, the chopping, the dicing, mixing, the smells…does so much for the building of community.”
CookShop Chef Lessons give elementary-school children an opportunity to try healthy fruits and vegetables in a learning environment, Daisy said, while the Explorer and Discovery Lessons reinforce other academic areas such as reading, math and science skills.
“One of my favorite [Chef Lesson] memories is when a student was so proud of her dish – it looked so colorful, and it was so flavorful – she wanted to take some to the principal so she could taste it,” Daisy said.
But like all learning experiences, some can be a little jarring at first. When Daisy’s students were told carrots comprised the root of a plant, “they were so shocked, they weren’t sure if they wanted to continue eating [the Carrot Raisin Salad].”
Daisy said the students were more willing to taste the Three-Bean Salad and Apple Dipper recipes, but, she said, all CookShop lessons help serve a child’s personal development.
“Children who develop adequate cooking skills and nutritional knowledge are more likely to make healthier food choices later in life,” Daisy said.
And it’s that kind of insight – rather than the number of years’ experience -- that makes Daisy Carusillo an expert CookShop teacher.
By Leah Kohlenberg
Last week, the Food Bank kicked off the 18th year of our signature nutrition education program with a day-long conference, training teachers and educators to bring our CookShop program to students and parents in public schools throughout New York City.
A testament to the Food Bank’s continued commitment to nutrition education, CookShop will now be bringing the knowledge and tools to adopt a healthy diet on a limited budget to more than 135,000 low-income children, teens and adults through interactive workshops and peer-led social marketing.
This year, the Food Bank was proud to introduce important updates to CookShop. The CookShop Classroom for Elementary School curriculum, for example, now links nutrition education lessons directly to core subjects like math, language arts and science, and, importantly, to the school meals children have access to every day. CookShop for Families not only engages parents and guardians in workshops that complement the Classroom curriculum, it now also incorporates important skills like budgeting and meal planning.
This year’s keynote speakers – USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon and United Federation of Teachers (UFT) President Mike Mulgrew – joined Food Bank President and CEO Margarette Purvis at the conference, showing their support and appreciation for the teachers, parent coordinators and school staff who make CookShop a reality.
“We live in challenging times, and teachers can play such a vital role, not only in ensuring that children won’t go hungry, but that they also eat healthy foods,” said Under Secretary Concannon.
Remembering the recipe prepared during his visit to a CookShop for Families workshop in the Bronx, Michael Mulgrew told us, “I don’t know what it’s called, but I still make it.” The UFT President further praised the hands-on CookShop curriculum for making learning accessible to all students, including those in special education.
Perhaps best of all, the conference gives us a great opportunity to hear from the CookShop teachers and educators directly about what they most value in the program.
”This is an excellent idea - to link [the lessons] to math, science and language arts,” said six-year CookShop veteran Millie Peguero, referring to recent updates to the curricula she will be implementing in her Manhattan kindergarten class. “We’ve already noticed that the apple lesson, for example, coincided with a science lesson on fruits of the season, so we use that as the science lesson that day.”
By Ivette Paulino
There was the shy one that didn’t make any eye contact with me, a stranger. There was a class clown making funny faces to make everybody laugh, and a sophisticated one that had a fancy posture while sitting and eating.
It was my first day at the Chelsea Recreation Center, the day I first met the after-school kids I would be teaching last summer as part of my CookShop for Teens (EATWISE) internship. As I entered the classroom, I was immediately able to recognize some of the kids’ personalities.
The first lesson of the Food Bank’s CookShop Classroom for After-School nutrition education program is “Meet MyPyramid MyPlate and the Food Groups .” The kids were busy eating a snack, so to get their attention I asked a question: “What are some examples of fruits?” The kids stopped eating, and hands shot into the air.
One little boy surprised me, raising both of his hands high. “What’s your name?” I asked. “Luke!” I felt Luke’s energy and enthusiasm, so I had to choose him. He answered, “Banana!” He had confidence written on his face – and on both of his hands.
Seeing how excited the kids were to answer my question, I felt so proud of myself for overcoming my fear of talking in front of a crowd and suddenly couldn’t wait to keep on doing so for the next six weeks.
When I started CookShop, I expected to learn a lot about food and nutrition. But I never expect to learn how to express myself with confidence, so that my voice can be heard. From that day on I was able to step up and talk to the kids as a friend, a role model and a teacher. And I hope I helped the kids see how fun and easy it can be to lead healthy lives.
Ivette is a senior at the Community Health Academy of the Heights, participating in our EATWISE internship for teens. EATWISE gives young people the knowledge and skills to make informed decisions about what they eat and drink, and trains them to become peer nutrition educators.
by Zac Hall
For this school year, the Food Bank’s CookShop Classroom for Elementary School curriculum is getting a fresh new makeover!
We always strive to improve our hands-on CookShop nutrition education program so that the more than 30,000 participating New York City children, teens and adults get the best possible education about how to cook and eat healthfully.
Our new CookShop Classroom for Elementary School curriculum focuses on integrating nutrition and food exploration into everyday, routine activities for children – if kids talk and think about new foods and food choices on a daily basis, it gets easier to keep thinking about and making healthy choices.
First things first: Where does food come from? Our new curriculum starts at the farm, so that children know exactly where their food comes from before it lands in a supermarket aisle or their refrigerator. Students also discuss common food sources in New York City (like farmers markets, grocery stores and bodegas) so they can make healthful food choices anywhere they find food.
This year’s curriculum will also focus on school meals, using the foods that kids are already familiar with in the school setting as an extra learning tool. . Students will identify the healthy foods on their breakfast and lunch plates, discuss their farm roots and learn about their nutritional benefits, so that their everyday food experiences become learning experiences.
Speaking of plates: Our new curriculum stars the USDA’s new nutrition icon, MyPlate. MyPlate encourages people to think about building a healthy plate at meal times. Each educational unit of CookShop features one MyPlate food group: fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (and other plant proteins) and low-fat dairy products. The best part: after learning about these foods’ benefits, the kids prepare and taste delicious and nutritious recipes with them. Yum!
We are excited to start reaching a new wave of New Yorkers with our message of healthy cooking and eating! Check back throughout the year for first-hand stories from our students, teachers and Food Bank staff.
by Matt Gustafson,
Just a couple weeks ago, in public elementary schools across New York City, approximately 28,000 students are celebrating their “graduation” from CookShop as the 2010-11 program came to a close.
The Food Bank’s hands-on nutrition education program, CookShop reaches low-income children, teens and families with skills and knowledge to help them eat healthy on a limited budget. At P.S. 76 in Queens, students marked the end of this year’s CookShop program with a special awards ceremony and celebration, which was a great time for the kids (and for me!).
Wearing homemade construction and tissue paper chef hats, all the students in CookShop Classroom for Elementary School filed into the auditorium. After a short introduction by teachers, the festivities began.
First, the performances. Three classes took the stage and sang “Parts of a Plant,” to the tune of “Wheels on the Bus.” A staple in the CookShop curriculum, the song helps students learn and remember — as the title hints — the parts of a plant. Next they belted out “Grow Your Plants,” set to the music of “Row Your Boat,” describing all the things plants need to grow. The performances rounded out with a play about the life cycle of plants, with students acting out the various components of plant growth: soil, sun and water. (Our curriculum also includes a very adorable dance to illustrate the plant life cycle.)
After each student received his or her certificate for completing CookShop, it was time for the grand finale: a game show in which students from each class showed off all their CookShop nutrition knowledge to their fellow classmates.
Principal Mary Schafenburg told me CookShop has had such a profound effect on the school that when it came time for P.S. 76 to become a magnet school this year, CookShop helped inspire their decision to focus on nutrition and wellness. The school’s theme, “From Seed to Plate,” educates students that food doesn’t come from the grocery store but from the earth (a lesson CookShop emphasizes, too).
As part of their new health focus, the school has a partnership with Brooklyn Grange, a rooftop garden students can visit and work in. The school is also in the process of building a greenhouse nearby. And most recently, they created a walking day in which all the students were given pedometers to chart how far they walk each day and promote activity and healthy exercise.
All in all, it was wonderful to see the kids at P.S. 76 have such a blast and take pride in their CookShop learning, their cooking skills and their excitement about their future pursuits in healthy living and eating.
Matt Gustafson, Site Monitor, ensures the proper evaluation and implementation of the various CookShop components throughout the five boroughs.
By Josh Wessler,
This week, in a joint venture with the Mario Batali Foundation, the Food Bank is launching an exciting new nutrition and health education program, Community CookShop, at food pantries and soup kitchens across the city.
The Community CookShop pilot program breaks new ground for the Food Bank. For the first time, our nutrition workshops will pair parents and caregivers with their children to learn and cook together. Also a first, the workshops will be available at several of our member programs — food pantries and soup kitchens — in all five boroughs. And finally, it is our first time partnering with the Mario Batali Foundation.
The Food Bank and the Mario Batali Foundation share a belief in the power of hands-on learning to equip families for a healthier future. Based on that belief, Community CookShop engages whole families in practicing strategies to get the most food at the best quality for the lowest cost. Community CookShop is modeled on the Food Bank’s successful CookShop program, the largest provider of nutrition education in New York City public schools. Like CookShop, the new Community program will use hands-on activities to enhance participants’ skills for maximizing their food budgets, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and preparing tasty recipes.
All recipes for Community CookShop have been crafted by internationally-renowned chef, author and restaurateur, Mario Batali, who is also a dedicated member of Food Bank’s Board of Directors, the chair of our Culinary Council and an active proponent of child nutrition. All of Mario's CookShop recipes use nutritious, affordable ingredients that are available in local stores and food pantries throughout the city.
"Having been on the board and working with Food Bank for over 10 years, I feel honored and privileged to partner with them on this important step towards improving nutrition education,” said Mario Batali. “The Food Bank's strong ties in the community will undoubtedly make huge strides for many deserving families in NYC and hopefully help lead the way for the entire nation.”
Lucy Cabrera, President and CEO of the Food Bank, said, “We are thrilled to partner with the Mario Batali Foundation on this important nutrition initiative. Thanks to the Foundation’s generous support, we will now be reaching even more families, in their own communities, providing them with lifelong skills to create and sustain a healthier future.”
The Food Bank’s integrated services — food distribution, income support and nutrition education — help New York City families keep healthful food on the table through the toughest times.
Josh Wessler is CookShop Classroom Associate at the Food Bank. For more information about Community CookShop or to get involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Dr. Lucy Cabrera
When the Food Bank For New York City’s Bronx warehouse and distribution center first opened in 1983, the Food Bank distributed 500,000 pounds of food in its inaugural year. This year, 27 years later, 74 million pounds of food moved through our 90,000-square-foot warehouse — the heart and soul of our organization. The juxtapostion between then and now is astounding. In 1983, organizers of soup kitchens and food pantries would carry bags of food from our then 30,0000-square-foot warehouse back to the communities they served; we had a network of 93 programs. Today, we’re delivering 350,000 pounds of food a day to our network of approximately 1,000 community-based programs throughout the five boroughs.
In 2011, our food distribution efforts have reached a milestone that deserves a great amount of attention: the Food Bank has now distributed one billion pound of food to our neighbors in need. ONE BILLION POUNDS OF FOOD!!
If we learn anything from this number, we learn that the need for support continues to grow. It’s simply not enough to collect and distribute food. The key is to go after the root causes of hunger. At the Food Bank, we are bullish on our ability to fuel programs that address the underlying problems that lead to hunger. We focus not only on food distribution, but income support and nutrition education as well.
We have also learned that the face of hunger might not look the way you expect. I have been with the Food Bank for more than 23 years and in this, my retirement year, I have been very reflective on those individuals and families we serve and the postive change we have been able to effect on their lives.
I think of Rosalind, a single-mother that was recently featured in Serving & Empowering New York, our 2011 video. Rosalind was a self-reliant music teacher before the recession stripped her of her career and the ability to provide for herself and her son. She relies on our income support programs to help pay her rent. I cherish the story of a visitor to our food pantry in West Harlem who didn’t know how to cook a zucchini until we taught her. She relies on us. I am warmed by stories of school children, some whom used to think a pepper was a pear and grew in bodegas. Now they understand the concept of farms, and healthful foods, thanks to our CookShop nutrition education program — we are the largest provider of nutrition education to NYC public schools for children and their families.
Through my reflections I have learned that we can all make a difference in the lives of so many. I urge you, stay committed and keep your resolve for this cause, you can make a difference no matter how big or how small, and we will continue to fight hunger together, one billion pounds at a time.
By Roxanne Henry,
New York City kids have now been on summer break for a full week. While more than a million children across the city are most likely still celebrating their newfound freedom, for parents and caregivers who struggle to afford food, this can be a time of heightened anxiety and concern. To get the most out of limited food budgets, many families depend on free or low-cost school meals for their children when school is in session. It’s no coincidence that the summer months see a spike in need among children at food pantries and soup kitchens.
|Breakfast at a soup kitchen.
But with approximately 825,000 New York City public school students qualifying for free or reduced-price school meals, emergency food alone cannot make up the loss. The federally funded Summer Food Services Program
(SFSP, also known as Summer Meals), however, provides a free breakfast and lunch at schools and other venues throughout the city, and is available to all children. Because too many families do not access the program due to a simple lack of awareness, the Food Bank For New York City works to connect low-income families to this great resource that helps keep food on the table for their children when school meals are not available.
To increase awareness and participation, the Food Bank:
- Works with the NYC Department of Education to recruit members of our citywide network of soup kitchens and food pantries to help provide summer meals at their sites.
- Provides information about the program, and the locations of SFSP sites to all food assistance programs in our network, creating a broad outreach effort within New York City’s low-income neighborhoods.
- Collaborates with a coalition of governmental agencies and anti-hunger organizations to aid in a citywide collaboration to expand the program.
The Food Bank’s goal is to ensure that as many children as possible receive free summer meals, which are also available at schools, parks, libraries, pools and other sites across the city.
For a full list of Summer Meals sites, click here. Wondering which site is closest to you? Check out our maps of site locations in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, Staten Island, and Queens. To learn more about the Food Bank’s comprehensive efforts to fight child hunger throughout the year, click here. Roxanne Henry is the Food Bank’s Community Outreach Manager.