Tackling Food Insecurity
Community, Caring, & Belonging
Social Justice & Activism
More than 1 million New Yorkers are food insecure, meaning they lack consistent access to enough food and meals to promote an active and healthy life. This crisis, like many others faced by city residents, is compounded by other challenges such as lack of affordable healthcare, housing, and living-wage jobs. Our community seeks to address food insecurity in NYC by offering emergency meals, supporting other organizations doing critical food access work, and advocating to strengthen our social safety nets.
Judith Bernstein Lunch Program
We are thankful to our volunteers and operations staff team who have allowed us to continue serving meals throughout the pandemic. While we are not currently serving our usual sit down meal, we have shifted to handing out delicious, home cooked bagged lunches at the door of the synagogue to ensure the health and safety of our guests, volunteers, and staff. We hope to return to serving meals inside sometime in the fall of 2021.
We serve between 70-90 guests every Thursday, from 12-1 PM. We advertise in the area to local soup kitchens, lunch programs, and food pantries including the West Side Campaign Against Hunger (WSCAH) at the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew. Many of our guests are Spanish speakers who may travel from outer boroughs to eat with us. We see individuals of all ages including families with young children, especially during the summer. Many of our guests are regulars, from the neighborhood who are looking for a delicious meal and someone to talk to, some are experiencing homelessness, and others are working but struggle to afford adequate food for themselves and their families.
The Judith Bernstein Lunch Program volunteer co-chairs, BJ members Esta Rose and Robin Tunick have been involved in the lunch program for many years and ensure the lunch runs smoothly and our volunteers have what they need. Our Wednesday night cooking session is overseen by BJ Member Beth Siegel, who plans each week’s meal and helps to order food.
Our group of volunteers are compassionate, caring, and truly make the Judith Bernstein Lunch Program a special place. We are also fortunate to work with the Youth Services Opportunity Program (YSOP) throughout the year, which sends us volunteers of all ages from across the country. They host middle school and high school groups, college students, faith-based groups serving on mission trips, and community organizations. It is a great opportunity for them to learn about us, our guests, and our lunch program and to experience a different way of approaching hunger in New York City. We also host local NYC school groups including the Heschel School and Trinity School as well as school groups and other organizations outside of NYC that have been volunteering with us for years on service trips to NYC.
West Side Campaign Against Hunger (WSCAH)
West Side Campaign Against Hunger, housed in the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew on 86th Street and West End Avenue, alleviates hunger by ensuring that all New Yorkers have access with dignity to a choice of healthy food and supportive services. Our organizations have been longtime partners, bolstering each other’s efforts to address food insecurity on the Upper West Side and throughout NYC. WSCAH understands that addressing food insecurity requires providing not just healthy food but also access to social services such as utility and housing support, SNAP (food stamps) benefits, health insurance, educational programs, eviction prevention services, and so much more.
Each year, we support WSCAH’s incredible efforts by asking the BJ community for donations leading up to a during the High Holy Days through our Kol Nidre appeal, during Purim as matanot l’evyonim, and leading up to Thanksgiving through an Interfaith Coalition in support of their Five Thousand Turkey Challenge. Our Kadima students visit WSCAH every year to learn about their work and see how a client-choice food pantry operates.
WSCAH provides so much more than just their client-choice food pantry. They have expanded their operations to include dozens of partnerships with hospitals, community centers, and organizations throughout the city to distribute food and provide services with their Mobile Market and are continuing to grow these partnerships.
Visit the WSCAH website to learn more.
Growing our Social Safety Nets
While our lunch program seeks to ease the injustice and food insecurity we see in our City today, we also understand the moral imperative to advocate for a more just and equitable future.
We respond to calls to action from our partners around the city to advocate for improvements and increased funding for programs like SNAP (food stamps), affordable housing, health insurance, and other vital safety net benefits that we know are necessary to addressing poverty and inequity in our city.