In September, I kicked off a major part of my project on Food Justice in Brooklyn by visiting St John’s Bread and Life in Bedford Stuyvesant.
Bread and Life has been operating since 1982 and is the second largest Soup Kitchen and Food Pantry in New York City. It serves more than 2,000 meals per day and provides an enormous variety of social services.
My first week was spent riding in the Mobile Soup Kitchen – a converted RV that dispenses meals to people in need at 2 different locations per day each weekday throughout Brooklyn and Queens.
The Mobile Soup Kitchen is run by two full-time employees of Bread and Life, along with a core set of volunteers: some from Bread and Life, and others from the community, who meet the van at each site.
Each site varies significantly, for example Coney Island is one of the biggest and most diverse sites, with more than 450 meals dispensed on some days. Whereas the sites in Jackson Heights and Williamsberg are smaller, but target day labourers, men and women from predominantly Latin America or Eastern Europe, who in this economy, struggle to find temporary work and provide for their families.
Many individuals in these communities require information and referrals to social services, but might be far from the offices that provide them. The Mobile Soup Kitchen has an office in the back, and a travelling case worker, who can provide assistance with housing, counselling, health, education, legal issues and other programs.