Part of the Food Policy Community Spotlight Series
What They Do: Met Council is a leading force in the fight against poverty. It helps struggling New Yorkers of all backgrounds achieve stability through a wide array of services, including affordable housing across 20 locations, an acclaimed family violence support program, extensive aid for Holocaust survivors, services tailored to seniors, benefits enrollment, crisis intervention, identifying kosher and halal needs in New York City, and leading the world’s largest free kosher food distribution network. In collaboration with more than 150 food pantries and special distribution sites, 15 Jewish community councils, and other community-based partners, the Met Council serves and strengthens individuals and families across New York City in the neighborhoods where they live.
How They Do It: Met Council empowers its clients to confront both immediate crises and enduring needs in the fight against poverty. Its team of caseworkers conducts thorough assessments, devising intervention plans and resolutions in collaboration with their clients. Embracing a “no wrong door” policy, client needs are addressed comprehensively. Each year, Met Council relies on the support of more than 1,800 volunteers, ensuring that clients receive dignified care.
By leveraging government contracts along with privately raised funds, Met Council is able to amplify the impact of its services, reaching even more people in need. Its culturally sensitive professionals work closely with insular and immigrant communities, utilizing a nuanced understanding of cultural norms to guide individuals from crisis to stability.
Met Council’s food network was established more than 20 years ago in response to widespread and growing food insecurity in the community. Since then, it has grown into the largest kosher food pantry system in the country, serving more than 150,000 people monthly through more than 100 pantries, 20 of which are halal emergency food pantries. While its emergency food network serves all those who are hungry, Met Council specializes in providing emergency food that meets the cultural and religious dietary needs of food insecure kosher- and halal-observant households. It combines expertise in the rules of kosher and halal dietary restrictions with innovative technology to ensure that efficiency, dignity, and nutrition remain paramount as it helps people access needed food.
Mission: Met Council’s mission is to fight poverty through a comprehensive array of services that help New Yorkers move from crisis to stability. As an organization founded on Jewish values, it serves all communities, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, physical ability, language, or religion.
Latest Project/Campaign: Met Council’s recently launched Kosher and Halal survey is part of a yearlong research and coalition-building initiative that focuses on identifying Jewish and Muslim communities beyond New York City, understanding their kosher and halal food needs, and recognizing community-specific and collective challenges. The survey aims to gather insights about food and social service organizations across New York State, including their demographics and the challenges of the populations they serve, the impact of religious dietary requirements on their service populations, and the effects of policy on their operations. This information will contribute to understanding the statewide demand for kosher and halal emergency food.
Major Funding: Met Council receives significant funding from philanthropic foundations, community partnerships, and dedicated donors who align with their vision of a socially just and sustainable urban landscape.
Interesting fact about how they are working to positively affect the food system: Met Council operates the nation’s largest network of kosher food pantries and an expanding number of halal pantries, providing nutritious groceries to approximately 200,000 individuals monthly across the New York metropolitan area. Because there is relatively little kosher and halal food available through government and donated sources, Met Council procures and distributes culturally appropriate kosher and halal food to these pantries and also offers continual support in various areas such as reporting, operations, advocacy, and programming. Collaborating with numerous community organizations across various regions, including the five boroughs, Westchester, Long Island, and New Jersey, the Council distributed over 17.2 million pounds of food in 2022. They also conduct research and advocate to secure greater equity of access to emergency food for individuals who observe religious dietary practices. Their goal is to support individuals who are struggling with food insufficiency regardless of race, faith, ethnicity, sexual identity, or gender.