Feeding the Bronx for the Holidays and Beyond

By / Photography By Amanda Celestino | December 22, 2017
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During the holiday's everything just tastes better. For an estimated 300,000 Bronx residents who regularly lack adequate food access, the holiday season may leave them hungry for a memorable holiday meal.

This is where BronxWorks steps in. Founded in 1972, BronxWorks is a community-centered nonprofit. Its mission is to feed, shelter, teach, and support the community. During the holidays, BronxWorks provides meals for programs throughout the agency, hosts food pantries and a weekly farm fresh vegetable stand.

BronxWorks’ 35 sites include five kitchens that produced 500,000 meals in 2016. These kitchens include Morris Innovative Senior Center, Heights Neighborhood Senior Center, The Living Room, The Pyramid and the agency’s main kitchen hub, The Carolyn McLaughlin Community Center Kitchen. During the holidays, these kitchens all take special care to provide wholesome meals served with plenty of seasonal cheer. 

The Community Center Kitchen, at the corner of Grand Concourse and McClellan Street, has two full-time cooks, one delivery driver and a handful of youth interns who cook 600 meals a day.    

“We cook healthy good food, it’s just what we do,” said Daisy Pinero the head cook of the Community Center Kitchen. “You always know the holidays are coming when our fridges are full of turkeys. We need to be stocked up to make sure we can give people a nice meal.”

To help keep meals healthy and full of flavor, Pinero places weekly orders of local and regional produce thanks to a partnership between BronxWorks and Greenmarket Co. Orders are filled with sweet potatoes, Adirondack blue potatoes, butternut squash and plenty of collard greens.

“I can’t get over that there are so many different kinds of apples, potatoes, and tomatoes that I had never heard of,” Pinero said.  

At Pinero’s side for the past 17 years is cook, Maribel Abreu. She says growing up helping her parents run a restaurant in the Dominican Republic, has fueled her passion for cooking traditional foods. “I like that we cook food that people know and like,” Abreu said. Some of the traditional dishes include bacalao guisado (stewed codfish) arroz con pollo (chicken with rice) and stewed eggplant.

Photo 1: BronxWorks helper stocking shelves at Positive Living
Photo 2: The pantry shelves of Postive Living are lined with fresh fruits and vegetables.
Photo 3: Positive Living BronxWorks employees help stock shelves and give out food items on a busy Thursday.
Photo 4: Rebekah Facteau, RD, CDN Program Coordinator for Food and Nutrition Services at Positive Living, with Positive Living pantry clients.

The Living Room, a homeless drop-in Center on Barretto Street is among the sites on the receiving end The Community Center Kitchen’s meals. On average, this site provides 4,000 meals monthly. Lunch and dinner meals are delivered by the Community Center Kitchen.

Heading up the Living Room’s meal service is Frank Walrond, Food Service Manager. During his 15 years at BronxWorks, Walrond has come to realize the power of food.

“Food is very important to our clients, it can make or break their day,” Walrond said. “A good meal can completely change their mood, and when it changes for the better, that just makes me happy.” 

Holiday meals at The Living Room are provided by The Community Center Kitchen, The HOPE Foundation, and Saint Andrew’s Church. “We help keep their spirits up with good food and good conversation, especially during the holidays,” Walrond said.  

Along with providing meals, staff also makes the dining room festive.

“We set all the tables, put up lots of decorations, and we have Gospel, seasonal, and salsa music,” said Alfred Charles, Living Room’s Activity Specialist.

Using a good meal to help people is a common trend throughout BronxWorks. At the corner of Morris Avenue and East Burnside Avenue, is BronxWorks Positive Living, where healthy meals help those who are living with chronic illnesses. 

“We have a community space for clients to enjoy nutrient dense meals with people they know and trust, which together helps address their entire being,” said Rebekah Facteau, RD, CDN Program Coordinator for Food and Nutrition Services at Positive Living.

As for holiday meals, chatter at Positive Living starts months in advance.

“Clients are asking about our Thanksgiving turkeys (which are generously donated) at the beginning of summer,” Facteau said.

At Positive Living clients receive lunch and dinner five days a week from the Community Center Kitchen. They also have access to 2-3 food pantries a month that themed for the holidays as well as nutrition counseling. The pantries are supported with help from The United Way and Food Bank of New York City.

“Providing meals plays a big part in normalizing their meal patterns, addressing food access and serving as their main source of healthy food for the week,” Facteau said. 

BronxWorks is committed to moving beyond just making sure Bronx residents have access to enough food.

“People are coming to us when they are in a hard place in their lives, they have experienced traumas and other difficulties so it’s our goal to create bonds so they become comfortable with our staff,” Facteau said. “When clients experience improved health from our meals, nutrition support, and other services, that radiates, and that’s a wonderful experience.”

Volunteer opportunities

BronxWorks Positive Living Pantry Distribution

Volunteers needed to help with food pantry distribution at Positive Living 2054 Morris Avenue, Bronx NY. Preference is given to those studying or with a background in nutrition, public health, or social work. For more information and how to apply contact Rebekah Facteau, RD, CDN Program Coordinator at 718-716-5559 ext. 2525 or rfacteau@bronxworks.org.

BronxWorks & Westside Campaign Against Hunger Mobile Food Pantry Distribution

Volunteers needed for pantry upcoming distributions. For volunteer requirements and more information, contact Tiffanie Dorch, Program Director at 718-508-3198 or tdorch@bronxworks.org.

BronxWorks Community Health Programs

Volunteer opportunities available for those with nutrition education experience for various on-going seasonal community health events. For more information, contact Carolina Espinosa, RD Nutrition Programs Coordinator at 718-508-3098 or cespinosa@bronxworks.org.

Food resources

Grow NYC Fresh Food Box at Carolyn McLaughlin Community Center (Wednesdays year-round)

Get $25 worth of produce (6-9 different items) for $14. Cash, credit, debit, EBT & HealthBucks accepted. Got to the Carolyn McLaughlin Community Center at 1130 Grand Concourse between 3:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. Wednesdays to sign up. 

Article from Edible Bronx at http://ediblebronx.ediblecommunities.com/ediblebronx.com/bronxworks
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