As a holiday personified by bounty-laden dishes on dinner tables, the Thanksgiving season can be difficult for the thousands of New Yorkers facing food hardship. In response to their need, one local nonprofit provided more than 600 hot meals at four northern Brooklyn locations this week.
“Food is the most common denominator in bridging differences between people,” said Kendra Chiu, executive director of North Brooklyn Angels.
The sites where needy local families could have come for pre-prepared dinners, as well as produce and frozen turkeys for families to make Thanksgiving meals for themselves, were: Our Lady Mount Carmel-Annunciation in Williamsburg and Most Holy Trinity in East Williamsburg, and two Episcopal churches: Church of the Ascension in Greenpoint, and Iglesia de La Santa Cruz + Bushwick Abbey, in Bushwick. Nearly all served for this distribution initiative were frequent beneficiaries of North Brooklyn Angels.
In the days leading up to the holiday, North Brooklyn Angels volunteers distributed thousands of pounds of produce and nearly 1,000 frozen turkeys — as well as pre-made dinners to those who don’t have access to an oven to cook — to residents in Greenpoint, Bushwick, and Williamsburg.
“We are actually not a food program. We use food as a way to build community,” said Neil Sheehan, the chairman and co-founder of North Brooklyn Angels. “We are really trying to bring together the schism that is created economically by gentrification.”
According to the Robin Hood Poverty Tracker Report released in November, 7% of New Yorkers faced severe food hardship last year, defined as “often running out of food or worrying food would run out before having money to buy more.” Over half of New Yorkers faced moderate food hardship, or “sometimes running out of food or worrying food would run out before having money to buy more,” the report said.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel, where the volunteers distribute food five days a week and have a community kitchen, is located just minutes away from a shelter housing recently arrived migrants. The demand, they say, is noticeably greater than it was at this time last year.
“The bottom line is that it’s food. It’s a bare necessity — a base necessity — regardless of what walk of life you are,” said Anjali Suneja, the kitchen manager and a Williamsburg resident.
Since 2017, the nonprofit has been providing meals primarily through their mobile soup kitchen aptly titled the “Angelmobile.” This way, the North Brooklyn Angels are able to serve an average of 1,800 people a week.
“It’s called Thanksgiving. To me, you’re giving thanks by giving back to your neighbors,” said longtime volunteer Kelly Marks, who helps out in the food distribution effort. “That’s part of what the holidays are supposed to be about.”
North Brooklyn Angels serves the neighborhoods of Bushwick, Greenpoint, and Williamsburg. For more information on their services, visit www.northbrooklynangels.org.