Our combined investments makes Robin Hood the largest private funder of food security programs in New York City. Last year, Robin Hood’s investment in nine food services, including soup kitchens and food pantries, totaling almost $3.8 million, made it possible for poor families across the five boroughs to receive five million meals.
In 2014, cuts to the food stamp program eliminated $600 million from the total food budgets of low-income New Yorkers. Additionally, the after-effects of Hurricane Sandy still persist, and too many city residents live in “food desert” communities: low-income areas far away from supermarkets where they could access fresh foods and better prices.
While emergency food may be the primary reason people visit soup kitchens and pantries, we know poor New Yorkers are not only food-deprived; they face other critical needs as well. We approach the fight against hunger in three different ways. First, we make grants to the Food Bank for New York City and City Harvest to distribute food to approximately 800 sites across the city. Second, we provide direct funds to nine soup kitchens and food pantries throughout the five boroughs so that they can provide food to individuals in need. And at most of these sites, we support Single Stop staff to connect low-income New Yorkers to a wide range of financial resources, including access to city, state and federal benefit programs for which the people who visit these food sites may be eligible.
We support smart, efficient programs that provide food to families in need and co-locate a range of social services at those sites. City Harvest is at the forefront of food distribution in New York City, projecting more than a 100 percent increase in the number of meals it provides by 2016 to 72 million, up from 32 million just four years ago. As we have done for more than two decades, we continue to invest heavily in the Food Bank of New York City, the largest distributor of food in the City and the conduit to public funding in New York City. We also continue to fund the largest, best-run food pantries and kitchens in the city, including Food Bank of New York’s Harlem site.
We fund much more than food. Poor New Yorkers are not only food deprived; they have many other needs that affect their lives. That’s why we fund groups that provide knowledge and skills—about healthy eating and nutrition, disease prevention and staying active—with each serving of food.
We added Single Stop, a one-stop shop for services, to the emergency food sites we fund to provide support that helps move families to self-sufficiency. For example, we know that access to food stamps helps to reduce and even stave off poverty. We also know that access to housing, legal counseling, benefits and assistance for filing taxes, among other services, helps to keep families together. Through Single Stop, we make these important links stronger by providing resources for staff, technical assistance and supervision.
In 2014, Robin Hood and N.Y.C.’s Human Resources Administration (H.R.A.) developed a pilot initiative to enroll 10,000 poor New York City senior citizens who were eligible for, but not receiving, food stamps. We did this by analyzing city data to identify and target individuals receiving Medicaid but not food stamps and by providing a call center for eligible seniors to apply easily for food stamps. In the first two weeks of the program, more than 400 seniors submitted food stamps applications. Preliminary results from the partnership are very promising. At this rate, we’ll easily surpass our target of enrolling 10,000 eligible senior citizens in the food stamp program.
New York Common Pantry (N.Y.C.P.), a 35-year-old program in East Harlem, was one of the first emergency food organizations established in New York City. It works to reduce hunger and food insecurity through programs that help establish long-term independence for those it serves. Its holistic approach begins with the distribution of nutritious, fresh food pantry packages in Choice Pantry, as well as hearty, balanced breakfasts and dinners in the Hot Meals program. Single Stop funding ensures that the program is open 365 days and provides case management services that help visitors gain access to public benefits and entitlements. N.Y.C.P.’s Project Dignity connects homeless visitors to resources. N.Y.C.P.’s Live Healthy! Program teaches children and adults about the importance of a nutritious diet and active living, and it provides them with the skills necessary to make healthier choices for their families.
The River Fund New York, a 2014 Robin Hood Hero, was launched 23 years ago as a volunteer organization devoted to “championing the worth” in those who have no voice. From day one, it served as a model for innovative direct-service approaches to combating poverty, and was among the first to help people living with H.I.V./AIDS in New York City. It is the leading poverty frontline center in Queens, helping more than 14,000 families each year with weekly groceries, benefits access and enrollment, and support and education pathways from cradle to college. Post-Hurricane Sandy, it was among the first groups to arrive in the flood zones with emergency food, demonstrating again the value of mobile product-distribution capabilities.
Benefit Data Trust
Food Bank for New York City
New York Common Pantry
Part of The Solution
St. John’s Bread & Life Program
The River Fund
West Side Campaign Against Hunger
Max Stone, Chair
Peter F. Borish
(includes grants made in Feeds, Counsels, Heals, Shelters and Trains)