Lenox Hill Neighborhood House is a 121-year-old settlement house widely recognized as one of New York’s premier human services providers. Founded in 1894 as a kindergarten for immigrant children, the Neighborhood House now serves 20,000 individuals and families in need each year through a wide array of effective and integrated services—social, educational, legal, housing, health, mental health, nutritional and fitness.
The Neighborhood House’s clients range in age from 3 to 103 and “live, work, go to school or access services” on the East Side from 14th Street to 143rd Street. There are five locations between 54th and 102nd Street and programs at dozens of East Side locations. Lenox Hill delivers services to thousands of homebound clients in their own homes with the objective to help people gain the skills they need to strengthen themselves and their community.
We caught up with David French, Director of Foundation Relations for Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, to learn more about the food-related work and services they provide:
Lenox Hill Neighborhood House has become a frontrunner in the local farm-to-institution movement by creating a model program serving 400,000 fresh, healthy and locally-sourced meals to low-income New Yorkers annually through two senior centers, a homeless shelter, Head Start program, after school, summer camp and a day program for older adults living with dementia.
The Neighborhood House transformed our 365-day-a-year food services to a farm-to-institution model so that our clients can access and learn to use healthy, fresh foods to improve their overall health and well-being. We now serve more than 90% fresh produce (approximately 40% of it locally-sourced), regionally-grown and milled whole grains and sustainably harvested fish and local organic meat. We are the largest institutional customer of GrowNYC, the nonprofit food hub, and also host a GrowNYC weekly food box program for our community.
Complementing our food services, our Healthy Foods and Wellness Program teaches clients of all ages about food, nutrition and the benefits of a healthy diet and lifestyle. We have also created a 2,400-square-foot Green Roof and Garden, which we use as an outdoor classroom to teach clients about healthy foods and gardening and to grow herbs and vegetables for our kitchens.
The Neighborhood House is the only organization we know of doing this work in government funded programs like homeless shelters and senior centers serving low-income clients.
The Neighborhood House’s Executive Chef Lynn Loflin has decades of experience in the New York food world. She is best known for having been the chef/owner of Miracle Grill in the East and West Village. Before joining the Neighborhood House in 2011, she worked as a teacher and curriculum designer for Children’s Aid Society. She is also owns and operates Newtown Farms, an organic farm in the Hudson Valley.
Tell us about a recent success you’ve had with your food-related work.
In May, the Neighborhood House completed the renovation and expansion of our main kitchen. At approximately 1,250 square feet, the new kitchen is more than twice the size of our old kitchen, with new exhaust and air conditioning systems, expanded food prep and cooking areas, large walk-in refrigerator, new dry storage system and a wide-range of new equipment to facilitate our ever-expanding use of fresh, locally sourced food. The new kitchen will allow us to synch all of our menus, to store and serve more fresh food and to explore new possibilities such as making our own cheese and doing our own butchering.
Tell us about a recent challenge you have encountered in your food-related work.
In general, local summer fruits can be a challenge to source due to the short season and higher cost. While we have been serving a range of New Jersey fruits over the last few weeks, including plums and peaches, we have experienced some challenges in getting clients to accept fruit that has more flavor but is not always as perfect looking as industrial agriculture fruit.
Any exciting new events or projects?
This fall, the Neighborhood House will launch a training and technical assistance program for nonprofits with institutional food programs serving low-income clients. The Teaching Kitchen at Lenox Hill Neighborhood House will help participants transform their food programs to a farm-to-institution model, increasing low-income New Yorkers’ access to and use of healthy food. The ultimate goal of the program is to facilitate systems change to localize publicly-funded institutional food systems, strengthen local and regional food infrastructure and improve New York’s health, environment and economy.
Main Office Address: 331 East 70th Street, New York, NY 10021
How Many Full-Time Staff: 140
How Many Volunteers: 750 annually
Areas you serve: East Side of Manhattan, from 14th Street to 143rd Street.
Founding Date: 1894
Founded by: Lenox Hill Neighborhood House was founded by the Alumnae Association of Normal College – what became Hunter College — as a free kindergarten for the children of indigent immigrants.