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

Get Grilling—No Meat Required!

By Marlo Dublin

Summertime signals the start of barbecue season and, for many, an increase in meat consumption. Grilled hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken typically take the spotlight, leaving vegetables in the dust. Is it possible for vegetables to play a larger role in our summer meals? Absolutely!

Incorporating vegetables and meat substitutes, like tofu and tempeh, in place of traditional meats can be better for our health and wallet. While full of protein, meat tends to be high in calories, cholesterol and saturated fat which, in large amounts, can be harmful to our heart health over time. Processed meats, such as hot dogs and sausages, usually contain preservatives, additives and extra salt which are unhealthy if consumed in excess.

Research shows that meat prices, particularly those for beef, are on the rise; if we can learn how to be creative with vegetables instead, we will save money at the supermarket and on future health care costs. Most vegetables are fat-free and low in calories. They provide a variety of vitamins and minerals, in addition to fiber, which is helpful for digestion, maintaining healthy blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and keeping us feeling full and energized.

Here are some suggestions for easy meatless dishes that can be prepared on the grill:

1) Grilled eggplant or zucchini steaks can serve as a lighter and tasty substitute for traditional beef steaks. Simply wash and then cut either vegetable into one-inch-thick ovals, brush each side with olive oil, season with salt and pepper or dried spices, and grill for 2-3 minutes on each side or until they are tender.

2) Take a break from classic beef burgers by making fresh vegetable burgers. Mash two cups of your favorite cooked bean, such as garbanzo or black, and combine it with one stalk of chopped celery, one grated carrot and ¼ of a small chopped onion. Add ¼ cup whole wheat flour to the mixture, along with salt, pepper and other seasonings, and combine until the ingredients can be formed into six flat patties. Brush the burgers with a light coating of olive oil, place them on a lightly oiled sheet of tin foil and grill them for about 8 minutes on each side. Serve the burgers on a whole grain roll with your favorite trimmings, or serve them breadless along with a tomato sauce or gravy and your favorite salad.

3) Vegetable pizza, quesadillas, peppers or tomatoes, and mushrooms are other tasty alternatives to traditional barbecued meats and can all be grilled.

Marlo Dublin is a Just Say Yes to Fruits and Vegetables Nutritionist at Food Bank For New York City.

The Best Father’s Day Gift? Healthy Children!

By Alex McBride

As a single father raising two daughters, it's up to me to make sure they have everything they need. The one thing I want my girls to have more than anything else in the world is good health, and the best way I can do that is by helping them eat healthfully. That's why my younger daughter and I go to Food Bank's Community CookShop program at Hour Children Food Pantry. The workshops teach us how to make healthy meals on a budget. I've learned to make dishes that are much better for my family than what I'd normally cook. Let's be honest, some of the foods many of us love--fried and fatty--just aren't good for us.

It's great to get new ideas for dishes that are good for my daughters--and that they actually like. I have to admit, I'm finding out about different recipes that I never thought of before, like bean salad. We used different types of beans, onions, peppers and other vegetables. It tasted really good. You can get your protein and you don't even need meat!

So now I'm stocking up on beans, fresh fruits and vegetables, and lots of other good foods that will benefit my daughters. Their mother passed away at a young age. When I lost my wife, it really opened my eyes and made me determined to help our girls have long, healthy lives. I'm so glad that Community CookShop is in my neighborhood. We need it in our community. People need to know which foods are the most nutritious. They need to know how to cook them in a healthy way. This is the type of information that can help prevent us from getting diabetes and high blood pressure. As a dad, it's my job to know this so I can pass it on to my girls.

Alex McBride lives with his daughters, Christina, 15, and Katrina, 7, in Queens.

Campus Pantry Lessons

By Jason Adams

I recently had the opportunity to spend a day at PS21R in Staten Island, volunteering at one of Food Bank's campus pantry distributions. It was the perfect time to be at a school. With a year's worth of lessons almost behind them, students were thinking about how much they knew. The same could be said for me during my day of volunteering. As I passed out fresh pears and apples to the families who'd come to get food to take home, I realized that I was also measuring myself--figuring out what I knew about the scope of Food Bank's work.

Having been at Food Book for three years, I've gained a solid understanding of the great work our Nutrition & Health Education team does throughout the five boroughs. Although I work in Fundraising, my job requires me to stay up-to-date on the entire organization. That's why I thought I knew what to expect when I volunteered at one of our campus pantries.

However, I quickly learned that there is no substitute for firsthand experience. Everything I'd read and heard about our Campus Pantry program up to that point was great--but it wasn't mine. That is to say, it's wasn't personal knowledge. Actually participating in the program allowed me to establish my own connections and takeaways.

What grabbed me most was the excitement and eagerness of the schoolchildren "shopping" for food with their families:

"Mmmm, black beans!" 


"I love cucumbers!"

One girl in particular had a smile on her face the entire time. Picking from canned corn, carrots and tomato sauce, she convinced her mother that it was best to choose a variety rather than three of the same item. In fact, she already had her meal planned out for that night--pasta with a side of corn! She was trying her best to make the smartest, healthiest choices.

Getting the chance to witness and participate in this excitement added a personal layer to my understanding of our work. I discovered that the best way to learn more about what we do is to get out there and see it. Now, if I have to describe the Campus Pantry program to someone, I just have to think back to the enthusiasm of those children.

If you'd like to volunteer with Food Bank, sign up at

Jason Adams is Food Bank For New York City's Individual Giving Assistant.

A Senior in Service

By Ruth Danis

When the Forest Hills Jewish Center, of which I'm a member, announced a volunteer project at Food Bank For New York City, I wanted to join in. I'm 89 years old and I volunteer quite a bit. It's important for seniors to stay involved in the community. It keeps you active and connected.

My experience at Food Bank was wonderful. I helped repack food at their Bronx warehouse and although it was a lot of work, I enjoyed spending time with all the other volunteers. Most of all, it felt great to be a part of something so meaningful--to really make a difference.

I knew that my contribution that day would help many people in need all across New York City, especially seniors. That was my whole purpose in going. As a senior myself, I feel for other seniors who are having a hard time.

Helping others is what we're here for. If we're lucky enough to have, we must give to those who don't have. That's a lesson I hope my seven great-grandchildren learn through my example.

Ruth Danis, a former teacher for 25 years, lives in Forest Hills, Queens.

A Matter of Choice

By Gherell Owens

As a Member Engagement Specialist I visit programs every day that distribute food by handing out pantry bags. I encourage them to convert to client choice because it improves the distribution process and offers clients a more dignified experience.

This past winter, I visited Give Them to Eat in the Bronx and spoke with Program Director Rev. Danilo Lachapel and Program Coordinator Maria Vives. They nodded and agreed with me as I gave my spiel, but I still wasn't sure if they'd really make the switch. A few months later, during another visit, Rev. Lachapel asked me to give an impromptu sermon on client choice to the volunteers and clients gathered in the church sanctuary. I was nervous but I did it, and this time I had a feeling that a conversion just might happen. A proclamation that things were about to change for the better was made that day!

Two weeks after my big speech I returned to Give Them to Eat on a cold and blustery day. An equally chilly air of uncertainty still lingered as I set out to complete my objective. And the perfect opportunity was about to present itself. The program distributes an astounding amount of produce from its parking lot, and they had recently come up with the brilliant idea of splitting it into two aisles instead of one to speed up the process and cut wait times. I seized the moment and did the very same thing as a way to introduce client choice to their pantry.

The volunteers and I headed inside and set up two rows of parallel tables, each side topped with the exact same pantry items. As clients entered to "shop" the tables, they ooohed and aaahed, amazed by the change. One after another commented on how much happier they were with the new setup. You could feel their sense of dignity--and that's what client choice is all about.

Gherell Owens is a Member Engagement Specialist at Food Bank For New York City.

Dignity in Choice

Hour Children Food Pantry client Renee

By Abigael Burke

In my work as food pantry coordinator at Hour Children Food Pantry, I see the faces of hunger and poverty firsthand. Our clients here in Long Island City are struggling and we're doing everything we can to help them get through these hard times. But times are getting tougher.

Ever since the November 2013 SNAP cuts, the need in Queens has continued to increase. In one month alone we serve more than 3,000 people. Hour Children is one of only two emergency food providers within walking distance of Ravenswood Houses and Queensbridge North Housing Project, two of the largest low-income housing projects in the nation--home to nearly 8,000 people, including our client Renee.

Born in Queens, Renee lives in the Queensbridge housing project with her two granddaughters. In 2010 she suffered a back injury that rendered her unable to work. Without a paycheck to depend on, it wasn't long before she began experiencing food insecurity and skipping meals so that her grandchildren could eat. Then a neighbor told her about Hour Children Food Pantry. Renee was grateful to find someplace in the community where she could turn for help. Now she no longer has to sacrifice herself in order to feed her grandkids.

She says that her favorite part of Hour Children is the welcoming atmosphere. Our goal is to provide healthy and nutritious food in the most non-judgmental and respectful way possible. That's why our food pantry is client-choice, which enables people to select food in a supermarket-style setting. As Renee puts it, "There is dignity in choice."

Abigael Burke is the Food Pantry Coordinator at Hour Children Food Pantry in Queens, a member of Food Bank For New York City's network of charities.

Teaming Up Against Hunger

By Oronde Tennant

With busy lives, it can be hard to find time to volunteer. But it's definitely worth the effort. The benefits of volunteering with Food Bank For New York City have been enormous--not just for me but for my entire Green City Force team. We've had the opportunity to connect with our community and make it a better place, and also strengthen our ties to those we serve. But don't just take it from me. Here's what my team had to say about our time volunteering with Food Bank.

  • Amani Coleman: "My experience at Food Bank has been great. The fact that my team and I were able to help families who are hungry is a blessing. I know the hardships that come with not having enough food to eat."
  • Decatur Goodden: "Volunteering with Food Bank gave me the opportunity to give back to people in need by packing thousands of pounds of food. It also allowed me to network with various volunteer organizations."
  • John Vicent and Irving Wright: "Repacking food might seem like a tedious task, but it is a very important job that leads to positive results. We had the pleasure of working with other volunteers from other organizations in the area. The highlight of our service was learning the metrics (how much food we repacked). Knowing that we repacked large amounts of food that will go to families in need is a rewarding feeling."
  • Hector Ventura: "The team and I volunteered for several months and now we are pros at repacking meals for the needy. The whole experience has been superb."
  • Flormaria Delarosa: "I know that everything we did at Food Bank has really impacted people who have very little. That makes volunteering all the more important."
  • Daniel Egipciago: "Helping those in need has changed my outlook on the world and I want to continue offering my services to this important effort."
  • Robert Malcolm: "I love Food Bank! It was a great and uplifting experience. I'm proud to have made such a difference in the lives of New York City residents in need."

Oronde Tennant is a Team Leader for Green City Force. He and his team of AmeriCorps members volunteered at Food Bank For New York City this year from February through April.

Have a Happy, Healthy Cinco De Mayo!

By Caitlin Fitzpatrick

Cinco de Mayo is a day to celebrate Mexican culture, and honor the country's victory against France at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. It is also the perfect time to enjoy Mexico's enormous food culture! This year, forgo cheese drenched nachos and share this healthy salsa dip – created by Food Bank's very own CookShop team - with your family.

This recipe has been tested and approved by our 40,000+ CookShop participants throughout New York City. We've broken the recipe up into adult prep and child friendly steps, so every member of your family can help with the preparation.

Serve this fruit salsa with whole grain chips for a fruity, flavorful fiesta. Or add it to a chicken, fish or veggie soft taco for a colorful MyPlate meal!

CookShop Peachy Orange Salsa


  • 3 oranges
  • 1 15-ounce can of peaches
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 lime
  • 2 tbsp chives
  • 1 bag of multi-grain tortilla chips

Prep for Adults

  1. Wash hands and all produce.
  2. Peel oranges and separate segments.
  3. Remove stem and seeds from pepper. Cut into child-friendly pieces.
  4. Open can of peaches. Pour into a colander to drain liquid.
  5. Cut lime in half.

Kid-friendly Steps
(With the supervision and guidance of an adult)

  1. Wash hands.
  2. Cut oranges, peaches and pepper into small pieces.
  3. Place in a large mixing bowl.
  4. Squeeze lime juice onto fruit mixture.
  5. Cut chives into small pieces, add to fruit mixture, and stir.
  6. Serve with multi-grain chips.
  7. Once everyone has a serving, count to three and taste together. Enjoy!

Caitlin Fitzpatrick is Food Bank For New York City's Nutrition and Health Services Associate.

A Volunteering Sabbatical in NYC

by Kathy Berry

After my daughters were grown and I had time on my hands, I discovered the joy of volunteerism. I had always helped out at my girls' schools, but when I fulfilled a major dream and moved to New York City in October 2013 I decided to take a sabbatical so I could do even more. On the recommendation of a friend, I interviewed for a volunteer opportunity with Food Bank For New York City and was lucky enough to be placed in an Event Lead position at the New York City Wine & Food Festival (NYCWFF). My first assignment was managing a team of volunteers inside the festival; then I was moved outside to help with registration.

I loved the young people I worked with. The support volunteers were wonderful, and when one of them called me Mama Kathy, my heart sang. The guests were friendly, fun, and excited to be there. Sylvester Stallone came right by me. So did Joe Namath. Each night when I was done with my volunteer duties, I popped into the evenings' events: Burger Bash hosted by Rachel Ray. Tequila and Tacos with Bobby Flay. So much fun, and oh, the food!

My only regret is that I didn't get to chat much with my fellow Event Leads as I was outside and they were inside. But we caught up, giggled, and relived all the fun moments when we did see each other. I have their emails. Hopefully we can connect and have a reunion. More new friends!

I loved everything I did that weekend, and it wouldn't be my last time volunteering with Food Bank. Just a few weeks later I was at their downtown Manhattan office doing volunteer outreach. While I was making my phone calls, Food Bank President and CEO Margarette Purvis gathered the staff for an exciting announcement. NY1 News had just selected the Food Bank For New York City as the "New Yorkers of the Year"! I was moved, humbled, and proud to be helping in any small way that I could for such a wonderful organization. It has become one of my favorite places to volunteer.

Kathy Berry is a healthcare professional who is currently taking a sabbatical to volunteer throughout New York City.

Volunteering Is Its Own Reward

By Jonathan Kong

The story of how I started volunteering began last year when I saw the events of the Boston Marathon unfold on television. After that day, I felt a strong need to help others, so I decided to volunteer at Food Bank For New York City.

My first project was on Coney Island, packing pantry bags at an elementary school for children to take home as part of Food Bank's ongoing Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. That was just the beginning. I've also helped out at Food Bank's Community Kitchen and Food Pantry in Harlem and I volunteer regularly at other charities within Food Bank's network. At Cathedral Community Cares I help clients get clothes from the Clothing Closet, and at Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger I help make compost and plant seeds in the vegetable gardens. I even appeared in Food Bank's public service announcement, which aired on the NASDAQ building in Times Square throughout the month of September.

When Food Bank issued its "30 For 30 Challenge" last year, challenging volunteers to complete 30 hours of service within the 30 days of September, I decided to take it on in honor of my grandfather, who was in extremely poor health at the time. The first volunteer to reach 30 hours would win a Caribbean cruise--and I won! The cruise exceeded my expectations. There were so many fun activities on board, from Zumba to stage shows to late night dance parties. I had a wonderful time.

Winning a vacation because I volunteer is great, but simply being able to help other people is the real reward.

Jonathan Kong has been a Food Bank For New York City volunteer for nearly a year.

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