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

Do You Volunteer? This Week's for You

by Mallory Shan

From top: Bank of America volunteers repacking food at our Bronx warehouse for delivery to soup kitchens and food pantries; A volunteer tax preparer, trained through the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program; Volunteers helped set up and prepare and serve food at Tang’s Natural’s 2010 NYC Dumpling Festival, which helped raised more than 220,000 meals for New Yorkers in need
We are celebrating National Volunteer Week here at the Food Bank For New York City! This week-long celebration, April 10–16, honors the more than 16,000 individuals who have contributed to the Food Bank’s fight against poverty and hunger by donating their time and skills — to help prepare taxes for our city’s working poor, provide nutrition education to families in low-income neighborhoods, serve meals at our Community Kitchen and throughout our citywide network, repack food at our Bronx warehouse and help our events and campaigns run smoothly.

The founder of National Volunteer Week, CEO of Points of Light Institute and co-founder of HandsOn Network Michelle Nunn, expresses the heart of this national week as one that “focuses attention on the impact and power of volunteerism and service as a vital part of civic leadership.” This resonates with one of my co-workers, Pan Venkatraman, and me since we are year-long volunteers through Mayor Bloomberg’s NYC Civic Corps Program. We have witnessed, through our engagement with volunteers and being volunteers ourselves, the potential for change that lies in service.

Stay tuned to our blog throughout the week for stories of just a couple of our amazing volunteers. We hope that their testimonies will inspire many more to join the Food Bank and volunteer to fight hunger!

Mallory Shan is assisting the Food Bank’s Volunteer Services department for one year as an NYC Civic Corps Volunteer 

Help Hungry New Yorkers by Pledging to Lose Pounds

by Ashley Goforth

As the Communications & Marketing Assistant at the Food Bank, I have the opportunity to hear about a lot of amazing opportunities going on to support not only the Food Bank For New York City but also the larger hunger relief community. My personal favorite are the ones that combine helping yourself and helping others in a quick and FREE way. Quick because time is a valuable asset (especially for New Yorkers, right?) and free because sometimes the only thing we can give to the causes we love is our support.

The Biggest Loser’s Pound For Pound Challenge is one of these opportunities. The Pound For Pound Challenge is dedicated to getting people to pledge to be bit healthier and lose a few pounds. It takes just a few seconds to select your state and your local food bank and take the pledge. And for each pound that you pledge for us, 11 cents will be donated to the Food Bank. Another great element is, if you are already at your ideal weight and fitness, you can pledge to maintain that weight and The Biggest Loser will still donate!

This is also great opportunity to help yourself. It’s an opportunity to make a promise to put your nutrition and health needs on your list of things to do this spring. The Food Bank is quite the advocate of making healthy choices. The Food Bank’s CookShop nutrition education program and our Change One Thing campaign all provide needed nutrition education to New Yorkers. And we are very proud to have won Feeding America’s Mightly Apple award for the most fresh produce collected for distribution five times in the past six years.

Aligned with our mission to provide New Yorkers with the tools they need for change – the Pound For Pound Challenge allows you to recognize that you want to strengthen your own nutrition education.

Who doesn’t love a free way to help fight hunger AND be active in your nutritional health? I don’t know about you, but to me it’s much more fulfilling to take the stairs everyday while reminding myself that I pledged to lose a few pounds in the name of hunger relief.

CHEFs for Schools, Inc. Cooks Up Volunteers for CookShop

by Alexandra Talbot

As the founder of CHEFs for Schools, Inc. – a tax-exempt nonprofit organization that strives to alleviate food inequality in underserved communities by training and placing student volunteers in worthwhile service opportunities - I am proud to support CookShop, the core nutrition education program of the Food Bank For New York City.

Since CHEFs’ inception in the spring of 2007, we have made tremendous strides toward our goals of improving food security, alleviating childhood obesity, and achieving food justice by supporting equal access to affordable and nutritious groceries. Our partnership with the Food Bank has been a major factor in reaching these goals.

I learned about CookShop while working as an intern at the Food Bank in the fall of 2008. CookShop is a federally-funded nutrition education program that helps children, teens and adults develop nutrition knowledge and cooking skills through hands on workshops. The program currently reaches approximately 30,000 New Yorkers, including students in more than 1,300 public elementary school classes and after-school programs.

I quickly realized the benefits of placing volunteers in CookShop Classroom for Elementary School, the program’s component for students in pre-K through second grade. Volunteers enjoy building relationships with elementary school students in underserved neighborhoods, and seeing the impact of their work as the children develop new skills and learn to make healthy food choices. By assisting the teachers, volunteers make CookShop even easier to implement, helping to increase the number of participating classrooms.

CHEFs helps recruit CookShop volunteers through a unique cultivation program in which university chapters offer educational, free and fun events that address bring students together around a shared interest in food issues. For example, the CHEFs for Schools’ Chapter at NYU offers free monthly cooking classes that unite and educate prospective and current volunteers around delicious, nutritious meals, while the CUNY Hunter Chapter will launch a food justice speaker series in the fall.

CHEFs aim is to recruit the most capable and motivated volunteers possible. The CookShop program requires no prior experience in public schools or food preparation, welcoming a wide variety of volunteers ranging from college students to working professionals. CookShop provides all volunteers with free training to improve their understanding of food preparation skills with elementary school children and demonstrate how to support a classroom during exploratory and cooking lessons.

I hope that you will join us in our efforts. Please take a moment to review the Food Bank’s various volunteer opportunities, including CookShop, and learn more about CHEFs’s efforts to impact food justice through volunteerism.

Target’s “Party for Good” Did a Lot of Good!

From top: One of two areas where attendees packed meals; volunteers in action (some attendees packed three to five boxes each!); one of many warehouse-themed decorations at the party.
by Brian Pham

On June 28, the Food Bank For New York City had the pleasure of participating in and benefiting from Target’s “Party for Good,” an exciting event that was held at an undeveloped warehouse on the East River. The party was in honor of the attendees, facilitators and supporters of the National Conference of Volunteering and Services, where leaders in the volunteering and service world met for three days to share best practices and participate in informative workshops.

Not only did Target throw a terrific party for the “volunteer coordinators of the world,” but they also included a HUGE volunteer activity that night! Partying and volunteering – is there any other better combination?

Party attendees packaged 150,000 meals that were distributed to children and families at  the Food Bank’s member soup kitchens and food pantries across the five boroughs. Who knew that a party could be so good while doing so much good?

Watch this video to see what the warehouse looked like before and after Target decorated it, along with some clips of the party in action.

Thank you to Target for hosting such a brilliant event, and to everyone who attended!

Better-Than-A-Picnic Picnic with Hebrew National & Mom Bloggers

by Heather Joseph

From top: The mom bloggers, Cheryl Hines and I show off our reusable canvas bags; Cheryl Hines talks about her commitment to hunger relief and her participation in the Better Than a Picnic picnic.

What happens when you combine a group of dedicated mom bloggers, Hebrew National hot dogs, Cheryl Hines of HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm and Randall’s Island? You get a fun-filled day supporting both the Food Bank For New York City and Hebrew National’s Better-Than-A-Picnic. On Saturday, May 22,  NYC Mom Bloggers hosted the event that was chock full of fun. I was there on site to partake in the festivities and, of course, represent the Food Bank.

Randall’s Island served as a great backdrop. Families were everywhere, enjoying the beautiful spring day on the soccer field, softball fields and playing in the park. Hebrew National set up a wiener wagon serving up yummy, piping hot hotdogs. Cheryl Hines was on site, not only speak of her relationship with Hebrew National but to comment on her commitment to raising hunger awareness nationally. In addition to the hotdogs, this free, family-friendly event had a mechanical bull (screams fun, no?) and a station to decorate reusable lunch bags that were then donated to our Community Kitchen & Food Pantry of West Harlem.

And a point about these phenomenal mom bloggers! Gracious is not enough of a word to explain how engaging and welcoming they were. It started with Emily of who worked to ensure that I got there and back home safely — car service :*two major thumbs up.* Meeting her cohort of other mom bloggers meant hearing sincere enthusiasm for 1) being awesome moms and 2) working to install, at an early stage, commitment to helping others in need. These moms rocked!

The day served as a great way for all family members to gets involved in a great cause. Doing good, on a full stomach and learning about the Food Bank’s dedication to helping New Yorkers in need— what at great day.

By the way, Cheryl Hines is extremely sweet and not at all a TV show diva! She enjoyed learning about the Food Bank and even made a really cool reusable lunch bag.

Whether you’re a parent, a New Yorker, a foodie  or just someone who like to support conscientious people, we hope you’ll enjoy all of the great mom-bloggers who came out in support of hunger relief!

Amy O., Selfish Mom
Amy P., Long Island Parent Source
Anna, Mommy Poppins
Carol, NY City Mama
Cecily, Upper Case Woman
Isabel, Alpha Mom
Jen, Next Kid Thing
Kelsey, Naptime Chef
Kimberly, Mom in the City
Jo-Lynne, Musings of a Housewife
Lisa, New York Chica
Melissa, Girly Mama
Suzanne, Mom Confessionals 
Whitney, Mommies with Style 

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.

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