About “School Meals to Pantries”
New York City is experiencing a challenge of food insecurity that has not been seen since the Great Depression. The number of people seeking food assistance from pantries run by volunteer organizations has tripled since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020. Many people who have been forced by unemployment and underemployment and sickness now turn to food pantries to stretch their household budgets. Food pantries are stressed by the increased number of clients and need to be able to stretch their own limited budgets to provide service to all who come to them.
“School Meals to Pantries” provides help by supplementing the work that current DOE neighborhood food hubs do to provide free meals to those in need. The idea is simple: a team of volunteers delivers an allocation of prepared school meals directly to neighborhood pantries. Retired NYC teacher Bernard Winter decided to create a partnership between three schools in 93rd Street’s Joan of Arc Complex in the Upper West Side of Manhattan and three local food pantries, enabling a regular pick-up and delivery schedule. Since September 29th, Mr. Winter has coordinated a group of fifteen volunteers. As of February 26th, 2021, the project has delivered 4,682 pounds of food to three neighborhood food pantries located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
There are unique ways that this project can help pantries and their clients:
- ‘Grab and go’ meals help to meet the needs of those who are truly homeless, who have no place to store food or prepare a meal.
- Many pantries meet the needs of their clients on Saturdays, while DOE run food hubs are open Monday through Fridays.
- It can deliver Kosher school meals to food pantries, providing a nutritious, freshly prepared option to pantries that they may be unable to provide.
- It can adjust the amount of the allocation of delivered food to meet the changing needs of the pantry.
- School Meals to Pantries is an all volunteer team, bringing together neighbors, school staff and parents, church members and pantry workers to address the issue of hunger in our city.
- Our website, https://schoolmeals2pantries.org is designed to become an information hub, where pantries and schools can locate one another and match in partnerships.
Volunteer service only takes about half an hour. Volunteers meet between 11:00am and 12 noon on school days, pick up the allocated meals at the school, put them in carts and walk to the pantry. All the pantries are within walking distance to a school. Volunteers weigh and document each food delivery, and the pantry signs a receipt. Because the meals are already pre-packaged, the volunteer team is able to act in accordance with COVID-19 safety protocols and the food handling guidelines of New York City Department of Education’s Office of Food and Nutrition Services (OFNS).
Mr. Winter has been in discussion with the OFNS and has received its support to expand to two new schools, P.S. 75 and P.S. 163, also located in the Upper West Sideof Manhattan. Pickups at P.S. 75 began on the week of March 8th. The project is looking for new volunteers to help in its expansion.