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Nourishing our Community with Local Food Pantries

This summer, the Mission Society is turning up the heat and embarking on a tasty exploration with our Mission Nutrition series, where we’ll explore the meaningful role food plays in our lives and discover the delightful possibilities that await us in the kitchen. In this piece, we’re highlighting the crucial role local food pantries play in providing food access to families in our community and sharing invaluable food resources across our city.

Sharing food is a powerful way to connect to and support the people around us. It’s one of our most universal experiences, whether we’re eating a holiday meal with family, enjoying the ambience of a restaurant, or baking with our loved ones in the kitchen. In the vibrant, bustling city of New York, you encounter fellow residents on a daily basis, and see firsthand how mealtime impacts well-being and provides a meaningful way for us to connect.

However, the city also shows us what it’s like when you don’t benefit from easily accessible food, as well as the experience of sharing it with others. Many of our neighborhoods face systemic injustices like food deserts and there is a large population living at or below the poverty line, preventing families from being able to afford regular meals. Both of these issues affect the health of our communities, and finding solutions is a collective responsibility – one that food pantries are taking on to ensure no individuals are left behind.

Operating in every borough, food pantries are on the frontlines of responding to the need for meals in areas where individuals face food insecurity. They distribute dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables, baked goods, canned goods, dried goods, frozen meats, and more at no cost. They are unmatched examples of the power of collective care, inviting participation through donations and offering critical social services that benefit anyone who comes through their doors. Often serving as the only source of accessible food, food pantries play a crucial role in providing not only nourishment but also in facilitating health screenings, job training, and the delivery of back-to-school supplies. These organizations are instrumental to the welfare of nearby residents, as well as the entire city.

At the Mission Society, we’re also dedicated to combating access issues through our programs. While we focus on offering education and family support, we often bring students together over food–to celebrate achievements, fuel afterschool learning, and create spaces for fun opportunities to socialize. We learn daily from the example of food pantries, implementing the model to establish our own in-school resources, collaborating with providers to open up another source for supplies for our young people and their families. Our students have even seen the value of food pantries and kitchens up close while volunteering for local organizations, understanding more deeply the profound impact of offering a helping hand.

Food is pivotal–it’s a life-sustaining, necessary resource that no one should have difficulty obtaining or sharing with their loved ones, especially when challenged by circumstances beyond their control. Food pantries are breaking down these barriers each day, and are a beacon for everyone in our city– reminding us that there is strength in community, and that when we come together we can ensure all of our neighbors thrive.

Incredible, dedicated organizations exist across all five boroughs for any person or family in need of a place to access free or low-cost meals. Below, you can find a list of five resources from around the city that we hope will make it easier to locate a food pantry near you.

On this site provided by the Department of Youth & Community Development, you can search food pantries by borough to find the addresses and contact information of your closest providers.

Generation NYC shared a list of organizations that have explicitly stated they are welcoming and safe for LGBTQIA+ communities.

On this website provided by Food Help NYC, you can engage with an interactive map that displays many of New York’s food pantries, their locations and contact information, and their hours of operation.

For Harlem residents and their neighbors, Food Bank for New York City has a community kitchen that provides 100,000 free meals each month through a soup kitchen, food pantry, and senior program. The website above provides more details on location and hours.

For anyone interested in pursuing a career in the food industry, this site has information on a short training program that will teach you culinary techniques, professional kitchen safety and sanitation, and basic knife skills to prepare for a job in the field.

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