River Fund Offers Food and Educational Support to New Yorkers

by Leah Butz
Part of the Food Policy Community Spotlight Series

Name: River Fund

What they do: A Frontline Poverty Center, River Fund is an organization dedicated to assisting and feeding people living in poverty in New York City. Among their goals is to help people move out of poverty through food support, educational support, and social service guidance. 

How they do it: There are three tiers to River Fund’s model:

  1. Food Access: River Fund distributes groceries to more than 36,000 households each month through their food pantry in Richmond Hill and their mobile pantries operating throughout the five boroughs. Furthermore, their Hub & Spoke Program helps to transport supplies (such as food and equipment) for eight community-based food pantries: Agape Food Rescue, Inc., Cityline Ozone Park Civilian Patrol, Community Care Food Pantry Inc., The Corona Self Help Center, The Cypress Hills East New York Coalition Inc., Feed the Plenty Inc., Guyana Day USA, Inc., and Serving the Multitude Foundation Inc. Through their Homebound Independence Program, River Fund distributes individually-tailored groceries to older adults and people living with disabilities in order to provide “security and dignity” to these populations, who are often isolated and have mobility issues.
  2. Educational Support: River Fund views access to education as the most powerful way to break cycles of generational poverty. They provide bridge grants through the Mary C. Tiedemann Scholarship Fund and oversee various private programs to help students stay in school and pursue higher education or trade school. 
  3. Benefits Center: Using a “concierge service” approach, River Fund helps families to navigate social services and legal issues, including SNAP, immigration (green cards and citizenship), Medicare/Medicaid, and others. River Fund is one of the largest non-governmental enrollment sites for SNAP, helping households apply for and receive benefits with both on-site and remote appointments. To date, the Benefits Center has helped more than 4,500 clients enroll in SNAP.

Latest project/campaign: River Fund celebrated their 30th anniversary in 2021, when they also launched the River to Success Educational Pathways Center. This private Center is dedicated to all of River Fund’s educational support efforts, including the Mary C. Tiedemann Scholarship Fund and student mentoring programs.

Profit/nonprofit: Nonprofit 

Interesting fact about how it is working to positively affect the food system: River Fund pioneered the mobile pantry model, operating their first mobile pantry in 1995 at Rufus King Park in Jamaica, Queens. 

Location: Headquarters and onsite pantry located in Richmond Hill, Queens.
Core Programs: Onsite food pantry & mobile food pantries, Homebound Independence Program, Hub & Spoke Program, the Mary C. Tiedemann Scholarship Fund, Benefits Center.
Number of staff: 16
Number of volunteers: About 220 per month
Areas served: NYC-wide
Year Started: 1991
CEO: Swami Durga Das
Director of Programs: Karina Izquierdo
Contact Information: info@river.fund

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