How the West Side Campaign Against Hunger Is Responding To This Moment

BJ has been a longtime supporter of West Side Campaign Against Hunger (WSCAH). Every year, BJ members donate to WSCAH on the night of Kol Nidre, responding tothe words of the prophet Isaiah which we read on Yom Kippur: “This is the fast that I desire… to share your bread with the hungry…” Below is an update on WSCAH’s response to the pandemic and how they are providing for the growing number of New Yorkers facing food insecurity. Please consider making a donation at whatever level you can during the High Holy Days to ensure they can continue their crucial mission.
—Larissa Wohl, Assistant Director of Community Engagement, and Rabbi Shuli Passow, Director of Community Engagement

Erika Freund, Chief Development and Communications Officer, WSCAH
Since the onset of COVID-19, it has been an unprecedented time for West Side Campaign Against Hunger (WSCAH) and the world. WSCAH has used our mission and core values of dignity, community, and choice to guide all of our decision making, proving WSCAH to be at the forefront of ensuring that all New Yorkers have access to a choice of healthy food and supportive services. The COVID-19 relief support has allowed WSCAH to quickly respond and
transform the organization’s operations to ensure continuity of services for New Yorkers in need seeking healthy food and essential benefits.

To ensure safety of our staff, volunteers, and customers, WSCAH moved its well-known, best-practice, customer-choice, supermarket-style pantry from a basement-level operation to street-level operation, which required new equipment and transformed the interior work space into a safe, food packing assembly system. To meet the increased need for food access, WSCAH expanded food partnerships and food rescue efforts, and continues to purchase a significant amount of healthy shelf-stable food items. WSCAH has been renting refrigerated trucks and rewired the electricity from Saint Paul and Saint Andrew to increase our refrigeration capacity to ensure we can provide our customers with the healthiest and freshest food possible.

WSCAH’s Mobile Market, which brings healthy food to customers in high need neighborhoods within northern Manhattan and the Bronx, adjusted to a no contact drop-off model. Pre COVID-19, the program worked in partnership with 15 sites, and now has increased to 25 sites to meet the growing demand, including targeting immigrant families and vulnerable children. WSCAH was also able to respond to the acute needs of this pandemic by working with New York Health and Hospitals, ensuring 3,500 patients were given a twoday supply of healthy food to take home upon discharge from COVID-19 admission.

The economic impact of COVID-19 is significant, especially for the communities WSCAH serves. The need for benefits like SNAP, health insurance, unemployment benefits, and cash assistance continue to increase significantly, and WSCAH’s social services remain central to the work we do. To also ensure safety of staff and customers, and continuity of these services, WSCAH transformed its social service department into a virtual call center. This required WSCAH to quickly improve its technology, purchasing additional laptops, phones, and equipment, along with creating a communication outreach plan to alert customers and key community constituents so individuals could know how to access WSCAH’s Social Service department.

WSCAH has served more customers, and distributed a significantly increased amount of food, during the COVID -19 pandemic.

Here are some of our key pandemic statistics:
• We distributed 54% more food from March-May 2020 than in 2019.
• Our 86th Street market saw a 388% increase in number of new households.
• Since mid-March, the Mobile Market serviced 10,191 households, a 115% increase from last year
• Our social service team provided 1,239 cash and non-cash benefits from May-June, three times the number provided last year.