Health & Wellness
Food Pantries in Brooklyn Help Fill Food Void from SNAP Reduction
By Fern Gillespie
This March kicked off with a food crisis for 30 million low-income people across 35 states. The federal government has scaled back SNAP’s food stamp benefits from the COVID era. Three years ago, during the pandemic, SNAP had increased the amount to approximately $251 for the average SNAP benefit. Now, it’s estimated to be reduced to $82.
To fill in that food gap, it’s expected that more people will be turning to food banks and food pantries. Although nyc.gov lists approximately 30 food banks in Brooklyn, the number is higher. Community churches, city agencies, and local nonprofits have made a commitment to make healthy, nutritional foods available for Brooklynites who need assistance.
Black Veterans for Social Justice has been operating its food pantry in Brooklyn for over 20 years. “It was established because there was a need for healthy food and everyone wasn’t getting the proper nutrients that they needed, so we collaborated with different organizations,” Jelani Mashariki, Vice President of Community Affairs, told Our Time Press. Its current partners include United Way, Food Bank of New York, City Harvest, and HRA.
For 14 years, Frank Farmer, Community Liaison at Black Veterans for Social Justice, Inc., has worked at the food pantry. The pantry is open the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of each month from 12:30 – 2:30 pm. Foods include chicken, red meat, greens, canned goods, fresh vegetables, fruits, and potatoes. “It depends on what’s delivered. We have a comprehensive package that has all of the food groups. We give breakfast, lunch, and dinner in each bag. We have prepared bags for distribution that have 2 to 3 days’ worth of groceries,” said Farmer. “There are 75 to 200 people that come on the food pantry days. It’s a sign-in with no ID required. We ask for basic family demographics like how many people are in the household, how many children, and how many seniors.”
Black Veterans for Social Justice has collaborated with HelloFresh, the Department of Veteran Affairs, and the New York State Department of Veteran Services for the HelloFresh Campaign Against Hunger. Each Wednesday, they deliver over 2,000 meals HelloFresh meal bags to veterans across New York City. Since Covid, they’ve distributed over 1 million bags of HelloFresh.
“Food pantries are important because you have the rising cost of food. You have the rising cost of living. I think where people can cut operating costs, they will,” said Mashariki. “Especially in New York City, the cost of everything just to live is on the rise. It’s important that people get linked to resources. Although you come for the food pantry we’ll let you know all the other resources that we have.” For more info on Black Veterans for Social Justice Food Pantry: www.bvsj.org
Preparing a Plan for the Pantry Visit
Freeze it. When you get bread, frozen or fresh meats, fresh vegetables and even dairy products like milk and yogurt think about freezing these products to extend their shelf life.
Can it. Cans of soups, sauces, tuna, meats, beans, and such have long expiration dates and can be used to make larger meals.
Box it. Get boxes of cereal, pasta, mac and cheese, rice, etc., and check expiration dates.
Ask for Extras. Ask regarding products for infants. Some food pantries have diapers and baby foods.
Get Pantry Schedules. Coordinate a list of food pantries and register. Create a checklist with the pantry’s open dates and times, bring ID if required, take extra bags or a shopping cart, find out if there is a limit to monthly or weekly visits and arrive early.
Personal Documents. Many food pantries require some type of ID document. It might be a photo ID or utility bills. Confirm what identification is required before the first visit.
Ask About Extra Services. There are other programs available at many of the food pantries. Ask for additional information.
Brooklyn Food Pantry Sources