Empowering the South Asian Community in New York: South Asian Council for Social Services (SACSS)

by Marissa Sheldon, MPH

Name: South Asian Council for Social Services (SACSS)

What They Do: The South Asian Council for Social Services (SACSS) was founded in 2000 in response to critical issues regarding barriers to social services faced by New York City’s fast-growing South Asian community. They assist individuals and families in the areas of healthcare access and awareness, connect people to various benefits, provide senior support services, promote civic engagement, and advocate for social justice. They also provide basic and advanced English and computer courses and run the first South Asian food pantry in New York. All SACSS programs are free and are provided by culturally competent staff members who speak 11 different South Asian languages, Spanish, and Creole. They serve more than 15,000 clients each year. 

How They Do It: 

Health Services: 

  • New York State certified Navigators and Certified Application Counselors help clients acquire healthcare coverage. 
  • Community Health Advocates provide counseling in person or by phone to help clients navigate the healthcare system. 
  • SACSS is part of One City Health, the largest Preferred Provider Service (PPS) in New York State. It connects uninsured or non-utilizing Medicaid members to insurance, primary care, and care management services. 
  • The organization is working with the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center on a research program focusing on the health issues of South Asian taxi drivers, including hypertension, stress, lack of exercise, and unhealthy eating habits. 
  • SACSS connects clients to food stamps, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Access-A-Ride, and reduced fare Metrocards. 

Food Pantry:

  • In July of 2016, SACSS started the Tristate area’s first South Asian Food Pantry to address the needs of clients and community members experiencing food crisis and hunger. Today, SACSS distributes nutritious food to more than 1,050 families (5,970 household members) each week and continues to register 35 to 40 new clients per month. 
  • The South Asian food pantry, which is open every Friday, provides South Asian staples to increase food security among underprivileged individuals and families. 
  • While the clientele is predominantly South Asian, nearly 50 percent are from other ethnic communities, particularly Chinese, Korean, and Hispanic immigrants. The pantry now incorporates food that is culturally appropriate in these communities as well.
  • The pantry is client choice, meaning clients have the freedom to choose their own food. Anybody that registers can get food; there is no eligibility criterion. 

Senior Support:

  • SACSS provides services to seniors that are intended to improve their quality of life. The organization’s staff helps seniors apply for benefits, conducts depression screenings, provides home visits, and offers supportive counseling. 
  • SACSS conducts workshops and hosts activities across Queens in various South Asian languages. The workshops focus on topics including mental health, nutrition, and relationships. These workshops are conducted in South Asian languages. Recreational activities include Bollywood movie nights and reading groups. 

Civic Engagement:

  • In order to ensure that South Asian voices are heard and elected officials address the issues they face, SACSS registers eligible voters, holds forums, and promotes civic awareness.
  • SACSS is actively engaged in Census 2020 work. The organization conducts extensive community outreach  to ensure that the South Asian community, which is often undercounted, is accurately represented in the Census. 


  • Basic and Advanced English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes help students gain confidence and become more engaged in everyday activities. English language classes are also very beneficial to those looking for employment in the city. 
  • Three 12-week-long computer courses are offered on Saturdays. Students learn basic Internet and Microsoft Office skills.
  • A Summer Youth Leadership program focused on communication, leadership, creative writing, and college readiness is offered to students between the ages of 13 and 17. 

Mission: To empower and integrate underserved South Asian immigrants into the economic and civic life of New York.

Latest project/campaign: SACSS runs the first South Asian food pantry in the Flushing, New York community. The pantry follows a client-choice model, meaning that clients choose the foods they take home, rather than being given a pre-packaged assortment, and provides culturally appropriate South Asian staple foods and spices. The pantry serves as a supplementary support system for individuals and families who want to make healthy food and lifestyle choices.

Major Funding: Federal, State, City, Grants, Foundations and Individual Donors

Profit/nonprofit: Nonprofit

Annual Revenue: N/A

Interesting fact about how they are working to positively affect the food system: The organization’s staff speak 11 South Asian languages, as well as Spanish and Creole.


Location: Flushing, NY

Core Programs: Healthcare Access, Senior Services, Food Pantry, English & Computer Classes, Civic Engagement

Number of staff: 14

Number of volunteers: 20

Number of coworking members: N/A

Areas served: Queens, Long Island, Brooklyn, Manhattan and The Bronx

Year Started: 2000

Director: Sudha Acharya

Contact Information: (718) 321-7929, sacss@sacssny.org, https://twitter.com/sacssny, https://www.facebook.com/sacssny 

Website: https://www.sacssny.org/

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