Posted At: July 21, 2010 5:24 PM | Posted By: Food Bank Staff
The People We Help
by Ashley Goforth
Recently, I've met a number of college students who are relying on food stamps in order to make ends meet and have put a lot of thought into the connection between being able to eat and being able to learn. Many students qualify for participation in the Food Stamp Program (now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP). When I think of food assistance, my first thought is not college students, but the truth is, if you are hungry, you can't learn.
I recently learned more about college students relying on food stamps when I met Carlotta – a NYC student living in Brooklyn who has graciously allowed us into her experience as a food stamp recipient. Here is a short interview:
How did you come to apply for food stamps? I was working as a massage therapist and going back to school. My schedule varied tremendously and sometimes I would have zero massages, which meant I earned no money. My friends and roommates told me about the program. After I heard more about a friend going through the process, I decided to contact the Food Bank for some help, and they took me through the pre-screening process. I was surprised that I qualified for food stamps as a student, but hearing it was an easy process convinced me to apply. Having the extra help each month relieved my anxiety about affording food.
How long does your allotment last during the month, and what do you do when it runs out?
From the beginning, I tried stretching my allotment through the first three weeks. Then I'd have enough money to pay for food when it ran out. I was living pretty poorly before so I was already used to being careful with my money.
Do you know of other students who would qualify for food stamps who are not taking advantage of the program? Yes, many of us in my program are making less than $1,100 a month. I'm sure many of them qualify and aren't in the program.
If you struggle to afford food, food stamps may be just the thing to make ends meet. Our food stamp information call center (212.894.8060) is available throughout the work week, providing regular access to food stamp specialists who can conduct pre-screenings and answer questions. Call us today!
As today is the last day of public school in New York City, it is a perfect time to reflect on an exciting year of CookShop, the Food Bank’s nutrition education program. Our workshops for children, teens and adults reached more than 15,000 people in all five boroughs, including students in more than 700 public elementary school classrooms.
Last year, in a survey of participating teachers, more than 97 percent reported their students more likely to try a new healthy food because of CookShop, while 96 percent reported their students want to eat healthier and 92 percent said their students are making healthier food choices because of CookShop.
This year, participating principals sent letters describing their CookShop success stories, and we were thrilled to hear their rave reviews. We’re especially excited that so many people involved with CookShop will continue cooking and eating fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains at home. Here are a few of their stories:
“CookShop became a catch phrase in our building, and the amount of enthusiasm it built among our teachers and students was amazing. The children in grades pre-K to second and in our special needs class learn to make healthy, nutritious recipes that they eagerly share with their parents at home. CookShop’s lessons have students readily eating vegetables in our cafeteria that my nutritionist and our parents have told me they were not eating before. It provides a bonding experience, a motivational tool and a new way of talking about food and nutrition for our teachers, our parents and our students.
“CookShop is an essential weapon in our healthy-living, healthy-eating fight to change the obesity rates in our school and in our neighborhood.” —Harold Anderson, Principal, C.S. 21 – Crisups Attucks Elementary School
“Our cook tastes the recipes and is going to start serving [CookShop] dishes at lunch time. This program has not only taught our community about healthy eating, but it has brought our community together.…Parents are volunteering in the classroom and cooking with the staff.” —Carin Ellis, Principal, P.S. 212 Queens – School of CyberScience and Literacy
“The teachers and students love the program. I just walked into a bilingual classroom and it was the first time they have seen cauliflower and collard greens. They were amazed with the texture.” —Melissa Acevedo-Lamarca, Assistant Principal, P.S. 19 Queens
“This is the first year my school is participating in the program and we LOVE IT!!! My little kindergarten, first and second grade students enjoy Fridays when their teachers do the CookShop lessons. I often have a little visitor coming to give me a small sample of what they made in class. My kids are always eager to explain what they made and how they did it.” —Vanessa Christenses, Assistant Principal, P.S. 48 Queens – The William Wordsworth School
“This Thanksgiving my family had a potluck and we all had to bring something. My sister, who teaches second grade at a school in the Bronx, surprised us with the three-bean salsa, which she too learned to make in CookShop at her school. This was full circle for me…CookShop is touching the lives of so many near and far. It makes me smile every time I think of my sister serving a CookShop dish at Thanksgiving because she knows we all need to eat healthier.” —Dora Danner, Assistant Principal, P.S. 17 – The Henry David Thoreau School
As improving child nutrition becomes a national priority, the Food Bank is proud of CookShop’s success in moving children and families toward a healthier lifestyle — and is working to bring the program to more communities in need.
Katherine Mancera is the Food Bank's Public Education Associate. For more information on our CookShop program go to www.foodbanknyc.or/go/CookShop, or watch our CookShop video below:
From top: Alberta, a soup kitchen client and member of St. Ann's congregation; St. Ann's board member Virginia Potter catching up with congregation member Florence Taylor during soup kitchen service; Cynthia Black, a cook at St. Ann's soup kitchen; photos courtesy of Scott Waddell
St. Ann’s operates a food pantry and soup kitchen, as well as after-school and summer programs for children, which incorporate nutrition education along with field trips, healthy snacks and exploration of the church’s vegetable garden. Cynthia, who cooks at the soup kitchen, moved to New York from the West Indies and has been a member of the St. Ann’s congregation for 20 years. “We are a family,” she says, and many members of the church both volunteer and rely on the church’s services. Alberta, a senior living on social security, first came to St. Ann’s for the food pantry and has joined the community. “I get food stamps now, so I don’t need the pantry as much, but I feel right at home here,” she says.
St. Ann’s is led by the Rev. Martha Overall, an ardent and compassionate leader in the fight against hunger. Author and educator Jonathan Kozol has chronicled her work, and Bernice King, who helps run the kitchen and after-school meal program at St. Ann’s, says, “She makes sure that we can feed everyone nutritious food…and she cares.”
Bernice is proud that St. Ann’s is helping meet the needs of its neighbors. “Whatever we have to do, we’ll do,” she says. “We have a lot of seniors who come to us, and they’re ashamed. They’ve worked their whole lives, and they don’t want to take help. But [they find] a community here.”
Originally featured in Food for Thought Spring 2010, the Food Bank's print newsletter.
Posted At: June 14, 2010 11:12 AM | Posted By: Food Bank Staff
The People We Help
by Daniel Buckley
Recipients of the Food Bank's monthly e-newsletters may remember seeing that title in their inboxes last week. The email — which introduced supporters to a New Yorker in their borough (those who live outside the city or who we don't have that information for received a Brooklyn story) — started as I began to review the Food Bank's stock of interviews with the purpose of updating the Meet the People We Help stories on our website.
I have been working at the Food Bank For New York City for close to five years now, taking part in efforts to alleviate hunger and food poverty every week (okay, I snuck a few vacations in there, but you get the point). Still, I am completely humbled every time I make it to one of our network's food assistance programs to meet just a few of the 1.4 million people who rely on emergency food in our city.
As a Food Bank supporter, whether you have donated, volunteered or spread the word, you have made a difference to the lives of hungry New Yorkers. Since, in my experience, there has been no better way to understand the truth of that statement than to listen to one of those New Yorkers, I wanted each of our supporters to be given that opportunity.
So, let me take just one more minute of your time to introduce you to Linda, a woman I met at Broooklyn's Reaching Out food pantry:
“This is the first food pantry I’ve ever come to. I lost my job about a year ago. I’ve been able to find occasional work, but I’ve been basically unemployed ever since.
“I found out what hunger is. It was humbling. I lost weight. And I really learned how to stretch a dollar. I’m recently divorced, so it’s just been me trying to get by. My brother helps here and there with a small loan, but it’s not easy for him either....
“This food pantry is saving my life. I come here once a week to pick up what I need. They helped me file my taxes too.
“The good news is I’ve been hired! If I’m still eligible for tax assistance I’ll come back next year, but soon I’ll able to afford my groceries again. I’m picking up a donation envelope on my way out today. I’m really looking forward to that first paycheck.”
Food Bank For New York City continually works to raise awareness and support for hunger relief through media outreach and information sharing. Here are highlights of the recent stories that have featured the Food Bank:
CNN International, “Growing Number of New Yorkers Depend on Food Help”
CNN International visits the Food Bank’s Community Kitchen & Food Pantry of West Harlem to examine a nationwide increase in need for food assistance...read more [includes VIDEO]
New York Daily News, “Queens Sees Huge Surge In Demand for Emergency Meals & Food”
Queens has seen a whopping 106 percent spike in the number of emergency meals being provided to hungry residents in the past two years — the second-highest increase in the city — according to a recent report on hunger from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand...read more
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.
Generations of Hunger
Watch our 2009 video, offering an insider's perspective from the front lines of hunger relief.
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
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.
Posted At: November 12, 2009 12:14 PM | Posted By: Food Bank Staff
The People We Help
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.
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.
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.”