9 Food Pantries Increasing Their Impact Through Innovation

by Deirdre Appel

Food pantries are an intrinsic part of New York City’s social services network, and provide an essential tool for combating poverty and hunger. As established institutions in the City’s anti-hunger work, food pantries are uniquely positioned to implement innovative methods of combating food insecurity and addressing the problem that is its root cause. Food insecurity may also be linked to other issues including malnutrition, illness, homelessness, or addiction, which means that addressing it requires a creative, thoughtful, and community-driven approach. Below 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.

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: info@AmpleHarvest.org
What Makes them Unique: AmpleHarvest.org is not a 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 to 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 are to successfully combat hunger.

Amp Your Good
Address: Operates across the United States and Canada
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: (800) 202-6637; info@givehealthy.org
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 that they need to serve their communities. It specializes in enabling people to donate fresh fruits and vegetables. It provides an online space where people fighting hunger are able to connect with and support one another in a streamlined and accessible way.

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 and 1:30 pm – 3pm, 5pm – 6pm; Thursdays 10am – 12pm and 1:30 pm – 3pm
What Meals Do they Provide: Fresh produce
Contact Information: (212) 690-7902; info@whgainc.org
What Makes them Unique:  Not only does the Healthy Food Hub provide fresh produce to anyone who comes in, a list of food resources in the neighborhood, and an appointment for a full pantry bag, but they also provide nutrition information. 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. They are also coordinate trips to local farmers markets and make referrals to social services.

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 10am-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, giving their customers the ability to choose the foods they and their families need. The food pantry also work with the garden to bring fresh, local produce to clients, maximizing both the sustainability of the organization and the health of the community. The pantry also has a second-floor demonstration kitchen, classroom and three-station benefits center.

Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen
Address: 296 Ninth Avenue, New York, NY 10001
Who Can Receive their Services: Anyone who comes through their doors
Days and Hours of Operation: Meal Service:  Monday – Friday, 10:30am – 12:30pm (holidays included); Backpack Pantry Program: Thursdays at 3:00pm; Sunday Supper: varies, generally third Sunday of the month at 3:00pm
What Meals Do they Provide: Hot lunch (cafeteria style), brown bag lunches distributed to the community, weekend meals through the Backpack Pantry Program, and breakfast during the winter for guests staying with them when the Soup Kitchen serves as an NYC Warming Center during the winter.
Contact Information: Michael Ottley, Director of Operations, mottley@holyapostlesnyc.org, (646)998 – 6105
What Makes them Unique: Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen is the largest emergency feeding program in New York, and the second largest in the country. Its motto is “Soup and Soul,” embodying a philosophy of offering food and a variety of programs to nourish both the body and the mind. In addition to its social services team helping guests navigate towards improved health, housing and jobs, the Soup Kitchen hosts a computer lab, a Writers Workshop, meditation sessions, and weekly movie screenings. The Soup Kitchen also places a high priority on sustainability. The delicious and nutritious meals they prepare are cooked with rescued food, as well as New York State produce and dairy. The Soup Kitchen has a Zero Waste by 2020 initiative, which includes a composting and recycling. They helped bring the first two farmers markets to Chelsea in 2014 and, thanks to a partnership with the NYC Department of Sanitation, the Soup Kitchen serves as a composting site for Chelsea. Since 2017, they’ve been raising bees on their roof and yielding jars of honey. Later in 2019, they will be planting a seasonable vegetable garden so that neighborhood participants can learn about nutrition, sustainability, and composting, and gain an appreciation for nature.

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: Breakfast Monday and Tuesday 8am-9:30am, Wednesday-Friday 8am-9:15am. Dinner Monday, Wednesday, Friday 4:30pm-6pm. Takeout meals Saturday and Sunday 4pm-5pm.
What Meals Do they Provide: Breakfast, dinner, and personalized pantry packages.
Contact Information: (917) 720-9700
What Makes them Unique: 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 able to personalize the food they get and the pantry is better able to order more efficiently, thus decreasing waste. In addition to providing fresh food packages, nutritious breakfasts and dinners, the pantry also offers health education and connects homeless clients to resources.

Plentiful App
Address: N/A
Who Can Receive their Services: N/A
What Meals Do they Provide: N/A
Contact Information: info@plentifulapp.com
What Makes them Unique: Plentiful is an app that makes food donations more efficient for both the 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 text, significantly reducing wait times and easing the process for food providers. Plentiful also allows pantries to send out mass texts if there is a change to their normal schedule or if they have information they need to get to their clients. As of November 2018, 200 pantries had joined the platform providing over 800,000 pantry services to 240,000 clients. Across the US, over 40 million people visit a charitable food program each year, often waiting in long lines for service. Plentiful eliminates lines, increases agency, and restores dignity to families in need, while providing better information for service providers.

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: Breakfast is served Monday-Friday 7:30am-9:30am, Lunch is served Monday-Friday 10:30am-12:30pm; the Digital Choice Food Pantry registration is open Monday to Friday, 8am-12pm and Tuesdays and Thursdays 3pm-6pm; Pantry Hours are Monday to Friday 8am-12:30PM and Tuesday and Thursdays from 3pm-6:30pm; Mobile Soup Kitchen is open from Monday through Friday with hours varying on the location. See website for days and times. The human service department is open Monday to Friday, 8am-4pm.
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, Thursday during pantry hours. In addition to food, the organization offers a full-service social service department with services including SNAP and other benefits acquisition such as Medicaid and Medicare; immigration referrals, benefits advocate, housing applications specialist, Survival Skills English, medical clinic, men’s and women’s groups, crochet group and 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 providing guest choice. Healthier food is provided and encouraged along with a host of social service programs to empower each individual. The unique system is based on a points system which promotes healthier food choices and allows guests to shop as needed provided they have points available to them during the month. Points do not carry over and are based on household size. To promote healthier eating, St. John’s incorporates weekly cooking classes and demonstrations which are open to all guests.

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: Monday 8am-12pm, 1pm-6:30pm, Tuesday (Closed) and Wednesday, Thursday, Friday 8am-12pm, 1pm-3pm.
What Meals Do they Provide: No meals served but food pantry services are provided such as food pantry, culinary workforce development program and social services, including SNAP and Health Insurance enrollment, financial and legal counseling, eviction prevention counseling
Contact Information: (212) 362-3662; info@wscah.org
What Makes them Unique: The West Side Campaign Against Hunger was the first supermarket-style food pantry in the U.S. Customers can shop once per calendar month and are entitled to a minimum of 12 meals worth of food for each household member. They receive a card that specifies the amount of food they can choose in each food category, and then make selections based on what they like or need. West Side Campaign Against Hunger changes our perception of hungry people by working in partnership with them, providing food with dignity, and empowering customers to find solutions.   

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