As we start the new year, the need for New York Common Pantry has grown exponentially and we are meeting this growing need. The reasons for the increased demand are many, including: inflation holding steady, the continued high cost of food, childcare and housing; stagnating wages, and the reduction of pandemic-era SNAP benefit increases and other stimulus payments, to name a few. For those who are struggling, these hardships are overwhelming. Add the surge in migrants we are seeing at the Pantry, and NYCP is helping more people than ever before.
Stepping Up to the Challenges
While the situation is dire and distressing, NYCP continues to find ways to respond to the need. We have grown our Mobile food response by enhancing relationships with other community-based organizations, service locations and elected officials representing low-income communities. Mobile Pantry was initiated during the pandemic in 2020 and has grown to partner with 58 regular sites as well as provided 78 special distributions this year, for a total of 136 sites served across the city. Our Mobile Pantry again served nearly 2 million meals this year.
To support the migrants coming to NYCP, we assess their needs and meet them where they are. Our Help 365 program case management team works through their daily evolving situations and provides assistance accordingly. During this past year, our team has assisted with health insurance and emergency Medicaid, ID acquisition, mail service, and referrals to language classes and legal aid. Many come for our daily Hot Meals and Brown Bag Lunches, and for those allowed food in their residences, we provide either regular Pantry packages or “no cook” Pantry bags, designed for those in the community who have no residential cooking facilities.
Expanding Our Services
Beyond NYCP’s food assistance programs, our other services have expanded this past year. Our Project Dignity program, which supports our unhoused guests, saw 52% growth in hygiene services (showers, haircuts and laundry). Our case management teams accessed more than $7.1 million in public benefits resources for our guests across the city. In addition, our Live Healthy! nutrition education program has increased its workshop participants by 122%. The growth in nutrition education demonstrates its importance to helping our communities eat more nutritionally, extend their food dollars and make healthy lifestyle choices.
In addition, NYCP has entered into strategic partnerships with leading medical institutions to increase ancillary health and medical services for our guests. Our partners include Columbia, Memorial Sloan-Kettering, Mt. Sinai, NYU and Weill-Cornell. These services include medical screenings, HIV counseling, mammography screenings, dental clinics and more. Offering health care services provides guests a “one stop shop” to address their needs and helps to deepen our relationships with them and the communities we serve.
Increased Food Purchasing Power and Savings
The ability to store more food in our Food Storage and Distribution Hub has increased our food purchasing power and by purchasing food in bulk, we are experiencing substantial savings. A perfect example is the Thanksgiving turkeys we distributed this year. Because we were able to purchase more than 5,000 turkeys in bulk, we saved more than $29,000 over what we paid last year. Another good example is shelf-stable milk. Our ability to purchase in bulk saves us $1,600 – $8,400 per order. Each order generally covers about three weeks of Mobile Pantry distributions and serves roughly 9,000 households.
In addition, through our partnership with the Roundtable: Allies for Food Access (The Roundtable), NYCP has been able to purchase staples in bulk for our Mobile Pantry bags, such as oatmeal and white rice. In both cases, we have been able to pay less than half as much for the same amount of food for the community. These savings are significant.
Our growing food rescue program has already rescued approximately 115,000 pounds of produce from Hunts Point Produce Market (HPPM) and 70,000 pounds through our City Harvest produce partnership this fiscal year. Receiving large-scale produce deliveries provides meaningful savings because we have to order and pay for less produce each week. Through The Roundtable, we recently engaged in partnership with Sharing Excess, a group that works with HPPM to rescue surplus food to deliver to local hunger relief organizations. This agreement will provide NYCP even more access to fresh produce from the HPPM. All these savings are reinvested into our Food Programs, enabling us to serve more people.
NYCP is welcoming in the New Year from a position of strength, grateful for our donors’ and volunteers’ ongoing loyalty and support. We look forward to expanding our services and reaching more underserved neighborhoods throughout NYC to help even more families in the coming year.
New York Common Pantry