Improving Food Options for the Hungry in Central Brooklyn

In most of America there is a direct link between health and income.

In Bedford Stuyvesant in Central Brooklyn, for example, 35% of people live under the Federal Poverty Line (about twice the rate in the rest of the city).

At the same time, the rate of diabetes is 12% – 2 times the rate of wealthier areas such as Manhattan, and the second highest in the city overall (only the South Bronx, one of the poorest Congressional Districts in the U.S., has a higher rate).

The root of many health issues such as heart disease, obesity and diabetes can be traced back to what food you eat, and it’s widely acknowledged that eating more fresh fruits and vegetables instead of processed foods is one of the ways to defend against these illnesses.

That’s why in many of the food pantries and soup kitchens in the area, it’s not just enough to address hunger – it’s also important to provide access to healthy food options.

At Bread and Life, one of New York City’s largest soup kitchens and food pantries, access to fresh vegetables for their clients is achieved through a number of sources:-

The first program which provides vegetables to Bread and Life’s clients, is via Local Produce Link, a partnership between Just Food and the United Way of NYC funded by the New York State Department of Health’s Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP).

Local Produce Link connects 7 local organic vegetable farmers with 42 different New York City based Emergency Food Pantries, and Bread and Life’s farmer, Windflower Farms, delivers approximately 200 lbs of vegetables to Bread and Life once a week.

In addition, Bread and Life’s spiritual sibling via the Vincentian Fathers, and parent organisation, the St John’s University, also provides vegetables to Bread and Life via its Organic Farm, a product of the innovative Office of Sustainability program at the University.

For the rest of the pantry and soup kitchen’s needs, Bread and Life contract with J. Glebocki Farms, an organic farmer in Orange Country, NY, using funds from their operating budget.

These sourcing arrangements provide access to fresh, organic vegetables for their clients.

Timed to coincide with the vegetable deliveries, Bread and Life also has regular cooking classes. The classes, run by chefs trained or certified by Just Food’s Community Chef program, teach nutrition, meal planning and provide a forum to share cultural experience and new recipes using the in-season produce.