New York sits down to dinner, 2016

April 29th, 2016  |  Published in New York Sits Down to Dinner, slider

Volunteers prepare a salad for the Thursday lunch offered at St. George's Common Table. Photo: Lindsay Purcell.

Volunteers prepare a salad for the Thursday lunch offered at St. George’s Common Table. Photo: Lindsay Purcell.


Each year, NYTable.com looks at New Yorkers and food in “New York Sits Down to Dinner.” This year, we focus on people who don’t have enough on their plate — because they can’t pay for it, can’t access healthy ingredients, or don’t have a home where they can prepare a meal.

In a city of 8.5 million, more than a million and a half New Yorkers, including 650,000 children, can’t afford to feed themselves three square meals a day. The city measures food insecurity by calculating the gap between the number of meals people need and the number they afford to eat: Our gap is 241 million meals. About 1.4 million people rely on soup kitchens and food pantries to bridge that gap — up from 1 million in 2004.

For decades, we’ve handed out food to those in need, but the hunger advocacy is expanding, from a first-wave distribution model to a second wave of advocacy and education. We offer a comprehensive look at who’s helping, who’s in need, who’s at the forefront of the end-hunger effort and who has yet to make this a priority.

W’ve assembled data on food access and transportation, and on what the city’s five biggest food charities do with their dollars.

And we’ve put a face on hunger advocacy, with stories about both providers and those in need. Our “New York Sits Down to Dinner” stories, videos and photos look at people on both sides of the table — providers and activists, as well as a group of recipients with a sobering array of stories to tell. — Zara Lockshin


Both sides, now: A soup kitchen provides “an old-fashioned church supper”

Lunchtime regulars Jose Debourg and Steve Ellison come for the food but stay for the family atmosphere at St. George’s Common Table. Every Thursday, Doug Perry and his loyal volunteers prepare a three-course lunch for their guests, many of whom are homeless, including a sumptuous dessert buffet.  For many, this “old fashioned church supper” is just like coming home.


Learning to cook kosher food for soup kitchen recipients

Ruben Diaz, a chef at the Masbia soup kitchen, prepares 500 meals daily with donated food, according to kosher dietary rules.


Bronx gardens grow self-sufficiency plot by plot

Gardeners prepare their lots for planting. Their choice of vegetables like tomatillos and jalapeño reflect the neighborhood's Latin American roots. Photo: Xinyu Jing.

Photo: Xinyu Jing.

“Junk food is cheap and the food industry dumps it to these neighborhoods,” says Bronx food activist Karen Washington. She has a term for it: “food apartheid.”


“La vida te da sorpresas”: Illness sends a family to food pantries

In her kitchen, Blanca prepares an Ecuadorian version of arroz con pollo. Photo: Roxanne Wang.

Photo: Roxanne Wang.

Before October, Blanca and Adolfo had a different life. They became unlikely food assistance recipients when he became ill.


Food pantry serves three days of security each month

Madeline Morales runs a tiny food outlet out of a Salvation Army in Staten Island.


From access to action: Public schools revive home ec class with new goals

Parents, students and staff at P.S. 81 Thaddeus Stevens Elementary School learn about nutrition and prepare healthy dishes through the Food Bank For New York City’s CookShop program targeting schools in low-income neighborhoods.


Employed, helping relatives, and running out of food

Back in TK, Bangladesh, Begum family used to grow most of their own vegetables. Since moving to U.S., they had to adapt to life here, food and otherwise. Photo: Ilgin Yorulmaz.

Photo: Ilgin Yorulmaz.

After seven years in America, life is still a challenge: Not enough food for a family of six, even when both parents work.


The needy speak: On the bus to Albany

After five hours in Albany, the group takes the four hour bus ride back to Brooklyn. Photo: Raquel Wildes.

Photo: Raquel Wildes.

Twenty-two New Yorkers struggling to make ends meet traveled to Albany to ask their representatives to help end hunger in New York City.


Language makes a 12-year-old the family grocery shopper

Photo: Timmy Shen.

Photo: Timmy Shen.

Two Bronx parents with limited English rely on 12-year-old William, the best English-speaker in the household, to do the grocery-shopping.


The shame of food insecurity keeps one Staten Island resident silent

Diana, a 39-year-old Staten Island resident who struggles with clinical depression, fears that those around her will judge her if they know she is on food stamps.


Queens JCC provides Passover meals

Passover commemorates Israel’s deliverance from bondage in Egypt. The JCC ensures that members of the Jewish community can observe dietary restrictions during the eight- day holiday.

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