On Sunday, November 5, our Executive Director Rachel Levine had the opportunity to speak about food insecurity and children and Nazareth Housing’s impact on the community at Marble Collegiate Church’s “10 O’clock Hour” where speakers come to talk about various issues.
Nazareth Housing is grateful for the continued support from Marble Collegiate Church, specifically as part of the Easter Offering collections. “There is something so meaningful about being part of this ritual of giving and it feels very aligned with Nazareth Housing’s mission and focus on being a community-based organization whose work is guided by its community,” said Rachel.
During this last program year, Nazareth Housing has seen a growth in demand for services and, specific to the topic of food insecurity, Rachel discussed how Louise’s Pantry, which started after Super Storm Sandy, has continued to be a critical part of our services.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020 and several food pantries closed, the need for food and other goods exploded in the New York City community because more people were out of work and children were home from school and had less access to free school meals. Nazareth Housing, like many similarly positioned organizations, stepped in to respond to these dynamics. “At Nazareth Housing, we like to think that part of what makes our service model unique is that we can quickly pivot in response to the needs of our community, and that is what we did. We moved our pantry outdoors, set up specific appointments, reorganized our staffing model and secured additional fundings.” In the past year, Louise’s Pantry has serviced 100,000 duplicate individuals and distributed almost $ 1 million meals.
Now, as we find ourselves on the other side of the immediate crisis of COVID, the benefits and services that were enhanced to support those affected by the pandemic, such as an increase in unemployment and SNAP benefits, the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, the eviction moratorium, etc., have come to an end. “We are now seeing the long-term economic effects of COVID on our community, and this is what we are contending with, particularly as it relates to food insecurity,” said Rachel. Additionally, people are looking for other services and “part of our model is that we view Louise’s Pantry as a low threshold entry point to the rest of our housing stability services such as anti-eviction, benefits enrollment and general case management.”
The general trends around poverty and economic insecurity are eye-opening, including:
- According to the 2023 New York City True Cost of Living Overlooked and Undercounted report, 50% of households lack sufficient income to meet the minimum cost of living in New York City.
- According to a report from Robin Hood released a few months ago, nearly one in 5 New Yorkers and approximately one in 6 children are in poverty. And these numbers are before the expiration of the child tax credit, which was a critical lifeline to so many in the City.
- City Harvest estimates that 50% of working age households in the city or almost 3 million people do not earn enough to afford basic expenses.
- About a third of the households receiving SNAP or food stamp benefits have children.
Nazareth Housing is addressing these trends through several ways, including:
- We secured funding for pantries specific to migrants.
- We introduced nutrition classes with our partner Food Bank for NY.
- We continue to support families throughout the year as they experience peaks and valleys of economic pressure, such as during back-to-school and the holidays.
- We are focusing on benefits enrollment and benefits recertification to make sure households are bringing in as much income as possible.
- We are planning for our VITA free tax preparation.
As a Jewish woman, Rachel is deeply committed to her faith and has chosen a career path focused on the human service sector: She now runs an organization that was founded by a group of nuns. “On a personal level, this new affiliation with several faith-based communities has allowed me the opportunity to think more deeply on how different faiths approach good works including welcoming in the stranger, charity, and repairing the world. It has given me a greater appreciation for the fact that so many different groups are in this work of creating lasting change in our social fabric, to quote [Marble Collegiate Church’s] website. I have been fascinated that even with a diversity of practices and textual basis we all end up coming to the same realization – that we must all work in unison to improve our world,” said Rachel.
To watch a recording of Rachel’s speech, click here and select November 5, 2023 in the “Sunday 10:00 O’Clock Hour” section on the right side of the window.