As recent headlines describe a worldwide food crisis of soaring prices and increased hunger, families close to home are struggling as well.
For the staff at Brooklyn-based emergency food provider St. John’s Bread and Life, this translates to a 27% increase in need for food assistance in the last three months alone.
“In the midst of widespread food insecurity and outright hunger, the staff of St. John’s Bread and Life is addressing the crisis right here, in our communities,” said Independence Community Foundation Executive Director Marilyn Gelber, speaking at a special “Preview Tour” of St. John’s Bread and Life’s spacious new building in Bedford-Stuyvesant. ICF has awarded a $250,000 “challenge grant” to Bread and Life as it completes renovations on its expanded home.
In announcing the grant, Gelber explained the foundation’s ‘Give Where You Live’ campaign in support of Bread and Life: “We know that generosity is alive and well in Brooklyn, and this grant provides a dollar to dollar match to our Brooklyn neighbors in a challenge to join us and donate to this vital neighborhood resource.”
The MayDay preview tour took place in advance of Bread and Life’s official June 11 ribbon-cutting, in order to highlight the urgent need for increased food assistance in Brooklyn and the importance of local giving. The event drew business and community leaders, activists and clients of Bread and Life to the nearly-completed site at 795 Lexington Avenue.
Anthony Butler, the organization’s executive director added: “We’re truly grateful for the steadfast support of The Independence Community Foundation in helping us build a new home. This expansion will allow us to serve many more hungry New Yorkers. We’ll also increase our ability to assist thousands of people working toward greater self-sufficiency, and away from the need for Emergency Food.”
The $250,000 grant, from the Sovereign Endowment Fund at ICF, will help St. John’s raise an equal amount from the Brooklyn community to bolster the organization’s $10 million capital campaign — more than $6 million of which has been pledged.
Attendees got a ‘sneak peak’ at what these capital funds support, including a vast, modern kitchen capable of serving 430,000 nutritious meals annually (up from about 330,000), a restaurant-style dining area, “client choice” food pantry, library, expanded social service floor, and more.
Thomas Iadanza, Sovereign Bank’s Metro Division commercial banking president, said, “St. John’s Bread and Life does outstanding work in providing emergency food and assistance to individuals and families. As a business with deep roots in Brooklyn, Sovereign is proud to support this project to expand its vital work.”
Gelber added, “In this Brooklyn zip code alone, nearly 30,000 people have incomes below 125% of the poverty level. More than 650,000 meals by emergency food providers were served to seniors last year in this community, and more than 3.5 million meals to children. ICF has proudly partnered with St. John’s Bread & Life since 2000, and we’re here now to say, ‘Take up our challenge, Brooklyn, and give to our borough’s largest provider of emergency food as they move into a beautiful new home.’”