Who Depends on Us?

Volunteer Lisa Kanbar reports:

The other day we talked to some of our customers as they arrived.

A recently retired educator who is relying on assistance for the first time in his life: He was referred to us by the assisted housing facility he just moved into that has cooking facilities for its residents. This was his introductory visit to us. He looks forward to being able to prepare healthier meals for himself with nutritious pantry food. He was also very interested in participating in the culinary training course that Chef Mark runs for customers.

A mother who has been coming every month for the last five months: She heard about us from a friend on the train. The economic downturn has hit her family very hard. Having immigrated to New York City from the Dominican Republic 22 years ago, she finds herself, for the first time in her life, unable to provide for her two growing girls. Her landlord is trying to evict her. She described the West Side Campaign Against Hunger as “A Gift from God”. The day of her visit, she had looked in her cupboard and found nothing to feed her family. She knows that by coming here she will get the help she needs. She especially appreciates the fresh milk, bread, and beans.

A disabled woman who cared for others as a nurse’s aid for thirty-nine years: Her knees and her back have given out after a lifetime of hard physical work. She walks slowly and uncomfortably, leaning on a cane to keep her balance. She has been coming to us regularly for months, relying on the beans and cereal she gets here to supplement what she receives in food stamps. At home she has grandchildren who sometimes rely on her to provide food and shelter.

An elderly man who has come to us for food ten times in the last year: He describes our pantry as “above average”, a hard-earned compliment! In addition to the food, he has found the counselors here to be especially helpful.

An older woman who communicates only in Spanish: She and her husband were always been able to make ends meet but times have been tough. She has returned to us after an absence of twelve years. Her husband is chronically ill. In addition to caring for him, she has two grandchildren at home who rely on her. She gets no public assistance and is very grateful for the help she finds here.

A particularly chatty woman of middle age: She has been coming here every month for a year to keep her family of six nourished. She does not receive food stamps. She loves the fresh fruit and vegetables in the pantry—and especially the bread.

The stories are all different but share a common theme. People needed food so they found their way to The West Side Campaign Against Hunger at West End Avenue and 86th Street.


WSCAH’s Customer Chef Training Class cooked a gourmet meal for 180 guests at our benefit dinner on November 9, 2010. The event raised an amazing $110,000 for the food pantry.

The event honored Christ & Saint Stephen Church, Congregation Ansche Chesed and Mary & Morris Rossabi. Three Community Supported Agriculture co-ops (CSAs) were honored: Chubby Bunny CSA, Roxbury Farm CSA and the CSA at Ansche Chesed sponsored by Hazon.  

You can see pictures from the event on Flickr.

You can read Liz Neumark’s blog about the event on the Huff Po.

Click on the link to read our 2010 Annual Report of our amazing accomplishments during the year.

Nutrition Workshops

The West Side Campaign Against Hunger wants its customers to try cooking with fresh fruits and vegetables. Sometimes people aren’t familiar with the types of fresh produce donated by our CSA partners. So last week volunteer Johanna Hughes, a Cornell student,  offered a tasting of Swiss chard. Once customers had a chance to taste it, Swiss chard flew off the shelves.

Many thanks to our Community Supported Agriculture partners: Chubby Bunny CSA, Roxbury Farm CSA and the 100th Street CSA at Ansche Chesed.

In July 2010, the West Side Campaign Against Hunger served more households than any July before in our 31-year history. It was our second busiest month ever. We provided counseling and healthy food to 3,280 families with an 18% increase in the number of seniors depending on us.

I’m so glad that we can provide so much fresh, local produce to these low-income customers through our partnership with three CSA’s (community supported agriculture)  that donate organic produce to the pantry: Chubby Bunny, Roxbury Farm and the 100th Street CSA at Ansche Chesed.

To support fresh produce at WSCAH, click here


In the FY11 City budget released on June 29, 2010, the Managed Care Consumer Assistance Program (MCCAP) funding was eliminated.  As a result, New York will lose the matching federal funding and low-income New Yorkers will lose their primary source of information and assistance in obtaining, utilizing, and maintaining health insurance.

The West Side Campaign Against Hunger depends on MCCAP funds and training to allow us to offer the highest-quality health care counseling to low-income New Yorkers.

For the past twelve years, MCCAP has helped 150,000 New Yorkers understand and access health insurance, and gain health services.  The program has been funded each year with $2M from New York City Council and $2M matching funds from the Federal government.

Through a network of 25 neighborhood agencies, the MCCAP program reaches out to the most vulnerable uninsured New Yorkers.  The 150,000 clients are low-income, 83% with incomes below $15,000 a year; 58% are African American, Latino or Asian; 37% are people with disabilities or chronic health problems.  To meet the needs of New York City’s culturally diverse population, services are provided in 11 languages.

This cut in MCCAP funding comes at a time of increasing need. New York City’s Medicaid program is instituting mandatory managed care enrollment of people with HIV or AIDS.  This will bring a new large population into managed care plans. MCCAP has assisted uninsured people transition into Medicaid managed care since 1998.  MCCAP agencies have the expertise and have designed training materials to facilitate this transition.

On the eve of mandatory managed care enrollment for patients with HIV or AIDS and the implementation of federal health reform, MCCAP is more necessary now than ever before.

We are hopeful the City Council Members to support the restoration of funding for this most vital program. Please let you Council Member know that you support MCCAP.


Everyone who comes to the West Side Campaign Against Hunger knows the smiling face and irrepressible good humor of Martina Santos, a customer chef graduate and program volunteer.

Not everybody knows that less than a year ago Martina first came to WSCAH in need of food and without hope for her future. Through our services, Martina has transformed her life.

As soon as Martina met with her WSCAH social  service counselor, she began making use of the wide variety of services that WSCAH offers to every client. Through Credit Where Credit is due, Martina worked to stabilize her credit—because her long-term goal is to open a business of her own. She also used the free, on-site tax preparation services of AARP Tax Aide.

Most important of all, in October 2009 Martina enrolled in WSCAH’s Customer Chef class. “I saw the class and I asked what they were doing        because I love to cook. Then I met Chef Mark and he told me I could enroll.” In December she graduated at the top of her class. Since completing the program, she has been a regular and caring helper at our daily lunch program for volunteers. Martina has a smile, a kind word and often a      special homemade treat for everybody.

In February, with the help of Chef/Instructor Mark D’Alessandro, Martina was accepted for continued culinary training through a free certificate program at Kingsborough Community College. She attended class three days a week and volunteered at WSCAH the other two.

This week she graduated. Martina feels she has taken charge of her life. She’s positive about her future. She is proud of what she has accomplished in the last year with the support that she has received from WSCAH. She is achieving goals that have long been important to her.

 Martina is one of many people who first came to WSCAH’s customer cooperative for help