Summer is here, and I’ve been thinking about all of the things we traditionally do during the summer: barbeques, the beach, block parties, and plenty of outdoor fun. This year, though, we are challenged to find new ways to stay cool, beat the heat, and try to go on with our day-to-day activities while being mindful that these days are not normal. The COVID-19 virus reminds us of how fragile life is. We have been forced to change the way we live, what we do, and how we relate to one another.
When the fiscal year ended in June, we recorded a record number of guests served (25,000+), meals and emergency food distributed (1 million meals and 1.3 million pounds of food distributed), and services provided (more than $6 million in total secured in benefits). Our staff managed to accomplish this under the most difficult circumstances. Masks, social distancing, and contactless services all proved challenging, but given their strong commitment to the agency and to our guests, we pulled together and made the impossible, possible. Our guests counted on us, and our staff came through. How great is that? Since April, we have seen a 153% increase in our services, and we know that the numbers will continue to grow especially as the deadline looms for the Unemployment Compensation Assistance ends. We remain committed to ensuring that fresh produce, shelf-stable items, and other necessities will be available for our guests.
Some of the exciting highlights for this fiscal year included developing new partnerships with organizations like Sheltering Arms Children and Family Services (serving Jamaica and Far Rockaway), the Osbourne Institute, Help USA 1, and Housing Works, ensuring that families in these communities are supported. Millicent Souris, the Resource Food Coordinator, has forged relationships with the Hungry Monk Rescue Truck which serves the needy and homeless in Ridgewood, Queens. We have also partnered with the Community Fridge Project which has been highly touted for their efforts to feed community members by forging partnerships with organizations like Bread and Life. They are providing prepackaged foods and groceries to people in communities throughout Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx. Our newest friend, Union Pool, has offered to run weekly pop up markets in Greenpoint/Williamsburg. Our long-standing partnership with Visitation Church in Red Hook runs a weekly pop up market addressing the needs of the elderly in the Red Hook Housing Projects. Additionally, we continue our weekly outreach to dialysis patients at the Rogosin Institute in East New York.
We know we can’t do this alone, and we know that the new norm will be around for a long time. We remain grateful to those foundations, corporations, and individuals who require us to continually adapt our programs and services to address the pressing needs experienced by our guests. Join us in making sure that no one in need goes hungry. We especially want to thank our partners City Harvest, Food Bank for New York City, and Rethink for their amazing support.
As we look to the new fiscal year, we realize that the next few months will be our greatest challenge. We know that unemployment will remain high and that folks will continue to worry about housing and health care; many elderly community members and children are in danger of going hungry. We know our greatest challenge will be keeping our shelves stocked and our emergency food available. We pledge our commitment to keeping things running at Bread and Life, and I want to thank all who help us do what we do.
I’ll end with this quote from Desmond Tutu, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” Join us in overwhelming the world!
Sr. Caroline Tweedy, RSM