Melony Samuels, DRE and The Campaign Against Hunger: COVID-19 Food Heroes

by NYC Food Policy Editor

Why They’re Food Heroes: Since March of 2020, The Campaign Against Hunger (TCAH), headed by Dr. Melony Samuels, has worked tirelessly with other community organizations to provide food and other essential services to New Yorkers. According to the organization’s COVID response report, since last March, TCAH has served over 2,126,729 individuals and supplied 19,140,561 nutritious meals through its emergency food programs, more than triple the capacity TCAH serves in a typical year. The organization, which usually serves around 300 households a day, was bagging and distributing groceries to over 800 families in the pandemic’s early days in March of 2020. Since then, demand for emergency food resources has grown, and the organization now reports distributing over 2,800 bags of groceries per day to New York families. Additionally, TCAH has cultivated and distributed over 20,000 pounds of produce on its urban farms, and has continued to provide its youth workforce development programs, weekend snack program for elementary school students, and distributed food to communities in the South Bronx through its mobile food pantry. In 2020, TCAH received a grant from NYSHealth to work towards improving food security for veterans during the pandemic. Through the grant, TCAH will work with other community organizations and New York State agencies to distribute nutritious food to New York State veterans and their families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In April of 2020, TCAH received visits from Mayor de Blasio and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who praised the organization for its critical work and pledged to provide donations to the pantry and other local community organizations working to feed New Yorkers in need. 

Background: A native of Kingston, Jamaica, Dr. Melony Samuels received her doctorate in Religious Education from the Christian Outreach Bible College and Theological Seminary in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Dr. Samuels started her career in the insurance industry while serving as a pastor and Chief Administrator at the Full Gospel Tabernacle of Faith church in Brooklyn. She began her work in emergency food assistance in the 1990s, helping connect single mothers to food support. In 1998, she received a grant to formally launch a food pantry program. Originally known as Grace International, the program grew to become one of the largest food pantries in Brooklyn. In addition to serving as the Executive Director of The Campaign Against Hunger, Dr. Samuels is the founder of the Bed-Stuy Providers Network, a collaborative network of emergency food programs in Bed-Stuy. She has also served on the board of many food assistance programs and initiatives in NYC, including the Advisory Committee of City Harvest, the Strategy Council of the Food Bank of New York, the Council on Hunger and Food Policy, and the Steering Committee for the Manhattan Borough President and the Politics of Food Conference. She currently serves on the Vital Brooklyn Initiative Committee.

Work: Started in 1998 as a traditional food pantry in the basement of a Bed-Stuy church, The Campaign Against Hunger has grown to be a multifaceted organization serving individuals across New York City. Organized as a 501(c) nonprofit in 2005, TCAH runs a variety of programs including the Weekend Healthy Snack Program; Healthy Bloomers, a summer program for elementary school students; Health 360, a comprehensive wellness program for seniors; the Opportunity Youth Program, a workforce development initiative for teens and young adults; the Healthy Families Healthy Communities nutrition education program; and social service enrollment and management services. Through these programs and partnerships with other community organizations, TCAH provides food to thousands of community members daily, utilizing a community model to provide food and other essential resources for residents in 150 zip codes

Awards, Praise and Honors:  Dr. Samuels was awarded the Food Bank of New York’s Can Do Award, the 2017 Chapin Award for Excellence from WhyHunger, and was recognized by the New York Post as an Everyday Hero and awarded their Liberty Award. She has been honored by Brooklyn Community Foundation for her work as a Brooklyn Do-Gooder, and was a 2017 finalist for the Spark Prize for Innovation awarded by the Brooklyn Community Foundation. In 2013, Dr. Samuels was named one of Brooklyn’s Women of Distinction. 

Location: Central Brooklyn, NY

Website: The Campaign Against Hunger Website


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