Food Pantries Increasing Their Impact Through Innovation This Holiday Season

by Deirdre Appel
food pantry

Food pantries are an intrinsic part of New York City’s social services network. They are more important today than ever before, as they provide an essential tool for combating poverty and hunger as the city battles COVID-19. As hunger rates and unemployment soar, food pantries and food banks have risen to the challenge by finding t innovative ways to combat food insecurity in the midst of a pandemic. As Thanksgiving approaches, NYC food banks and pantries offer a way to give back and ensure that no New Yorker goes hungry.

Following is a list of food pantries that have adopted smart new policies for fighting hunger and are having a real impact on the well-being of New Yorkers. 

AmpleHarvest.org

Address: All 50 states

Who Can Receive their Services: 8,500 food pantries around the country and their clients

Days and Hours of Operation: N/A

What Meals Do they Provide: N/A

Contact Information: [email protected]

What Makes them Unique: AmpleHarvest.org is not a traditional food pantry, but its work is instrumental in helping pantries get better access to more abundant and healthier food. It connects millions of home and community gardeners around the country with their local pantries, making it easier for them to donate their excess harvest to those in their community who are hungry. Its work focuses on how critical locally-sourced, fresh food and sustained community engagement from gardeners aim to successfully combat hunger. If you are a gardener or small farmer in the New York City area and have food to spare, find out how to donate it here.

Amp Your Good’s #GiveHealthy

Address: Operates across the United States and Canada but has a special drive going on now in New York City

Who Can Receive their Services: People who want to organize a food drive to raise healthy food, hunger organizations seeking healthy food donations, and anyone who wants to donate healthy food.  

Days and Hours of Operation: N/A

What Meals Do they Provide:  N/A

Contact Information: [email protected]

What Makes them Unique: Amp Your Good’s #GiveHealthy platform is designed to make it easy for people organizing food drives to connect with donors, and for hunger organizations to access the food and resources they need to serve their communities. This season, City Harvest, New York City’s largest food rescue organization, has teamed up with the Daily News to officially kick off the 38th annual Daily News Food Drive. For the first time, organizations and individuals can participate by conducting virtual drives using the #GiveHealthy digital food drive system. The drive launched on October 22, 2020, and runs to January 22, 2021, with a goal of collecting one million pounds of food to help feed New Yorkers in need this holiday season.

Community for Healthy Food Hub at West Harlem Group Assistance, Inc.

Address: 625 Malcolm X Blvd., New York, NY 10030

Who Can Receive their Services: NYC Residents 

Days and Hours of Operation: Wednesdays 10am – 12pm, 1:30 pm – 3pm, and 5pm – 6pm; Thursdays 10am – 12pm and 1:30 pm – 3pm

What Meals Do they Provide: Fresh produce 

Contact Information: (212) 690-7902; [email protected] 

What Makes them Unique:  The Healthy Food Hub provides not only fresh produce, a list of food resources in the neighborhood, and an appointment for a full pantry bag, but also nutrition information to anyone who comes in. The Hub leads workshops and offers cooking lessons that focus on ways to eat healthier and more nutritious foods, and works to educate community members on the health risks of eating too much processed and packaged food. 

Golden Harvest Client Choice Food Pantry

Address: 376 Throop Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11221

Who Can Receive their Services: Registered families can receive services once per month.

Days and Hours of Operation: Tuesday and Thursday 9am-12pm

What Meals Do they Provide: Supermarket-style fresh produce and frozen goods

Contact Information: 718-453-9490 Ext. 224

What Makes them Unique: The Golden Harvest Client Choice Food Pantry partners with the Golden Harvest Garden, located behind the Throop Court housing complex in Brooklyn. They have adopted a supermarket-style, client- choice model  that gives their customers the ability to choose the foods they and their families need. The food pantry also works with the garden to bring fresh, local produce to clients, maximizing both the sustainability of the organization and the health of the community. This Thanksgiving they were unable to host a sit-down meal but provided a customary Thanksgiving meal on Nov 21st that clients were able to be picked up at a to-go counter.. As always they served succulent, stuffed turkey, greens, pies and more. All the food was cooked by their own in-house chefs and made fresh on the day. Social distancing guidelines can be found here.

New York Common Pantry 

Address: 8 East 109th St., New York, NY 10029

Who Can Receive their Services: Registered NYC residents who have provided proof of address and income 

Days and Hours of Operation: Up-to-date hours at their two pantry locations can be found here

What Meals Do they Provide: Breakfast, dinner, and personalized pantry packages. 

Contact Information: (917) 720-9700

What Makes them Unique: New York Common Party has distributed more than 4 million meals since the onset of COVID-19, serving nearly 185,000 individuals and bringing in nearly new guests. Clients can request the items they need ahead of time by ordering from the New York Common Pantry online. This means that New Yorkers who visit the pantry are able to personalize the food they get, and the pantry is able to order more efficiently, thus decreasing waste. This year they are organizing a Thanksgiving Food Drive to collect food products like stuffing mix, canned yams, and gravy as well as donations to feed families in need. They are also encouraging New Yorkers to start their own food drive online. To answer questions about donating food or starting a Food Drive for NYCP call Andre Thompson, Food Programs Director, at (917)720-9724 or email [email protected]

Plentiful App

Address: N/A

Who Can Receive their Services: N/A

What Meals Do they Provide: N/A

Contact Information: [email protected]

What Makes them Unique: Plentiful is an app that makes food donations more efficient for both pantries and recipients. The free, easy-to-use reservation system allows people to  register and check in at food pantries using their phones, via the app or by texting, significantly reducing wait times and easing the process for food providers. Developed in partnership with City Harvest, United Way of New York City, and the New York City Food Assistance Collaborative, Plentiful eliminates lines, increases agency, and restores dignity to families in need, while also providing better information for service providers. Plentiful’s reservation and messaging functions have been transformational for food pantries during this time of increased need. It has enabled partners to communicate service changes, safety protocols, resources, and health guidance to clients during this unprecedented time.

St. John’s Bread and Life 

Address: 795 Lexington Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11221

Who Can Receive their Services: All New Yorkers

Days and Hours of Operation: An up-to-date list of hours and services can be found here.

What Meals Do they Provide: Breakfast and lunch and a state-of-the-art digital-choice food pantry. Marketplace (fresh produce) when available on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday during pantry hours. In addition to food, the organization offers a social service department that provides help with acquiring benefits such as  SNAP, Medicaid and Medicare; as well as immigration referrals. The staff includes a benefits advocate and a housing applications specialist. Other services include Survival Skills English, a medical clinic, men’s and women’s groups a, crochet group and a movie/film group. See website for details.

Contact Information: (718) 574-0058

What Makes them Unique: St. John’s fights hunger holistically and provides additional services for its guests through its Dining Service (Soup Kitchen), Mobile Soup Kitchen and state-of-the-art digital food pantry. Since July 1 they’ve distributed more than a million pounds of food (over 900,000 meals), and provided more than 50,000 individuals with the hot meals and groceries they need to thrive. In addition to food distributed onsite, they are now distributing to more than 20 other nonprofits, churches, and volunteer groups feeding other communities in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens.

West Side Campaign Against Hunger 

Address: 263 West 86th St., New York, NY 10024

Who Can Receive their Services: Anyone living in the 5 boroughs of NYC.

Days and Hours of Operation: Saturday-Monday: Closed; Tuesday-Friday: 9AM-1PM

What Meals Do they Provide: No meals served but food pantry services,a culinary workforce development program and social services, including SNAP health insurance enrollment, financial and legal counseling, and eviction prevention counseling are provided. Social services are now virtual.

Contact Information: (212) 362-3662; [email protected]

What Makes them Unique: The West Side Campaign Against Hunger was the first supermarket-style food pantry in the U.S. It changes people’s perception of hungry people by working in partnership with them, providing food with dignity, and empowering customers to find solutions. They are now piloting the Collective Purchasing Initiative, a concept that was developed by Greg Silverman, Executive Director of West Side Campaign Against Hunger , whose background as a chef and in food operations spurred his desire to find out whether New York City’s food pantries could achieve meaningful savings by combining their substantial purchasing power. After securing funding from Robin Hood, Sea Change Capital, and the New York State Health Foundation in early 2018, Greg recruited three of the city’s other largest food pantries–Project Hospitality (PH), St. John’s Bread & Life (SJBL), and New York Common Pantry (NYCP)–to participate in a pilot project and retained food systems consultancy Karen Karp & Partners to lead the project research and facilitate the group’s activities. Collectively, these four organizations serve more than 5.7 million meals annually, and spend about $1.2 million per year on food, exclusive of grants received from the federal, state, and city governments.

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