was a part of New York City's workforce for many years. Born in Hell's Kitchen and a New Yorker all his life, Ricky says
he first went to work in his father's construction business, and later worked for both financial firms and newspapers. Ricky
has a small apartment near our building on 109th Street but little income at this point in his life. After he pays rent he has
little money left over for food, so he comes to New York Common Pantry for hot meals several times a week. Today we meet an
increasing number of seniors like Ricky, who've made their contribution to the city and now need our help.
Pantry member, Sesa Perez
and her two daughters Nicaurys (13 years old) and Nathalie (10 years old)
are active NICF participants. Both Nicaurys and Nathalie enjoy the nutrition education classes and as a result, have begun to try
more vegetables and eat more fruit in their diets. When asked their favorite part of NICF, Nicaurys immediately spoke about her
trip to Sylvia Center at Katchkie Farm. Her face glowing, she recounted how exciting it was to see a vegetable grow from the
Nathalie spoke quietly about helping her mom cook in the kitchen after learning basic recipes from Maria (the instructor) in NICF.
While there are still many vegetables she doesn't like, she eagerly mentioned her love of fruit after her mom gently reminded her about the
apples they receive from the Pantry.
Without the help of the Common Pantry, Sesa remarks that feeding her family and providing for them during the holidays would be very difficult.
"I'm blessed to be able to choose the food for my family. Also, without the Common Pantry, I wouldn’t be able to give my girls a Christmas.
I can’t buy presents for them but now they’ll be able to have a wonderful Christmas."
has been coming to the Common Pantry for 18 years. Street homeless for just over ten years, Mark has been a daily participant
of the Project Dignity program where he utilizes the soup kitchen, shower and laundry services. Mark has never been one to ask
for help but with persuasion from Common Pantry staff he began psychiatric treatment in January 2010 with the Project for Psychiatric Outreach to
the Homeless (PPOH).
While helping Mark work on his mental health issues, the Common Pantry also worked on his SSI application because his
sole source of income at the time was $68 in Public Assistance cash benefits and $200 in monthly food stamps. Project Dignity
case managers were able to secure SSI benefits on his behalf in June 2010 and he began receiving the SSI monthly benefit payments in August
During this time, he continued to live on the streets and parks of New York City and was still battling the constant
struggles with his mental health and substance abuse issues. These issues could not improve without stable housing, so Mark
acknowledged his struggles and began to work with Common Pantry case management and psychiatric services. With Mark’s new economic stability
he became focused on obtaining housing. In collaboration with the Goddard Riverside Street outreach team, the Common Pantry was able to get Mark
approved for a stabilization bed at the Harlem YMCA in January 2011. After many years of living on the streets Mark finally had a
safe place to sleep. While staying at the YMCA he continued to address the issues that interfered with stability: mental health
and substance abuse. Throughout this time Project Dignity staff continued to work on sending Mark’s housing package to various
housing agencies and in March 2011 he was accepted into the Center for Urban Community Services (CUCS) transitional housing called The Kelly.
At The Kelly, Mark continued to work on his sobriety and transition to a permanent housing setting until he was accepted into permanent housing
at the Ivan Shapiro Residence in October 2011.
Mark officially moved into his studio unit on October 18th, 2011 and continues to
come to the Common Pantry for support from case management staff and to utilize the soup kitchen services. Mark said, "The Common Pantry has saved my life in
so many ways. The case managers and staff have had a lasting impression on me, which is why I feel so comfortable here. It’s a wonderful place."
grew up in South Carolina but has been living in central Harlem for more than 40 years.
She still lives on the same street where she and her husband raised their family. Now that she is in her 70's
and is battling diabetes, she is very grateful to be a member of the Common Pantry's Pantry program and has been coming here for ten years.
Ollie was excited to learn about the Common Pantry's new Choice Pantry options and she is looking forward to ordering her custom pantry
package online via Pantry Direct, using the computers available at her neighborhood Senior Center. Her adult son
lives with Ollie, and together they appreciate the fresh produce and healthful food items that come in her pantry package,
now made to her order. Ollie recently learned that the Common Pantry's case managers can help her with non-food issues, as well,
like help with a tax refund and housing assistance through our program, Help 365. The Pantry makes a big difference
for Ollie's family and she is thankful.
Grace*, a 57 year old great-grandmother was preparing for retirement before she lost her job and came to the Common Pantry to receive
pantry and baby packages, complete with wipes, diapers, and food, for the two young great-grandsons in her care.
In September 2010, the Common Pantry assisted Grace to file papers and become a foster parent for her two great-grandsons.
Starting December 2010, Grace began receiving financial assistance for the care of her two great-grandsons.
Grace filed her taxes at the Common Pantry and continues to receive pantry and baby packages.
David*, a 43 year-old man who had been living in transitional housing received assistance from a Help 365 case manager to
apply for benefits. As a result, David was able to move into a new studio apartment on the Lower East Side.
Grateful to sleep in a clean, well-kept place he can call his own, David now receives rent assistance and Supplemental
Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) support from the Human Resources Administration. Now having a stable living
situation, David receives pantry food packages complete with fresh produce, and is excited to be cooking in his own apartment.
Information on Hunger
According to the Food Bank for New York City, there are 1.2 million people in New York City experiencing food hardship.
When compared with New York City, the statistics for East Harlem paint a dismal and urgent picture.
According to the 2009 American Community Survey released by the Census Bureau, the median household income for East Harlem families
was $30,674, 55% less than Manhattan’s median household income of $54,879.
NYC’s 2006 Community Health Report shows 38% of East Harlem residents live below the poverty line, nearly twice that of Manhattan
residents. In response to the high numbers of families living in or below the poverty line, the Common Pantry serves all of NYC with a
focus on East Harlem and Upper Manhattan.
Upper Manhattan and neighboring communities are 'food insecure.' Residents are unable to afford food basics, unable to
travel to the grocery store.
As a result, many suffer from diminished access to nutritious and healthy food. Often, residents shop at corner deli
markets or take out from pizza shops, doughnut stores, and fried-food restaurants that pepper their immediate neighborhood.
Residents are ill educated about the negative affects of these choices and consequently, find themselves with illness and
complications associated with food insecurity, obesity, and poor nutrition.