Staten Island Hunger Task Force Meeting Minutes, Highlighting Need For More Food Funding, New Pantries Needed In Certain Areas

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Editor’s Note: Following are the meeting minutes for the SI Hunger Task Force this month.  Of particular importance to Island residents concerned about their neighbor’s food insecurity:

-A note was made that the East Shore of Staten Island has an Asian community in need of food and that there are not many pantries to service this area.

-Donna S received information about an interesting lecture series about Food Accessibility at Rutgers Saturday, Feb 18th, 2023.

-Terry shared that what we see on Staten Island is the fallout of the closure of emergency COVID programs. They ended abruptly in June, many pop up pantries filled the gap and now those are gone.

The rise in food price is not being addressed by food aid. No one has bounced back economically to where they were pre-COVID. Many different factors are playing into Staten Island not receiving the food it needs to address hunger


Agenda for February 6th Meeting:

  • Motion to receive the minutes of the January 2023 Meeting
  • Election of the Secretary: Dr. Heather Butts Candidate
  • Committee Reports
    • Food For All
      • Legislative Forum – Updates and Date set as February 21st at 4 PM
    • Data
      • Creation and Distribution of 2022 Food Pantry Survey
    • Governance Committee
  • Report from the Food Bank Food Summit 2023
  • Reflection from Winner of the Best Food Pantry Award from 2023

Minutes from January 9th, 2023

Attendees: Susan Fowler, Andrew Fairley, Gloria Lavine, Joe Magliocco, Donna Scimeca, Cindy Roberti, Jean-Paul Murphy, Terri Lo, Lynell Bruno. 646-642-6058, Alemayehu Ayele, Danielle Parks, Amelia Winter, Chris Dowling, Richmond IPC, Terry Troia, Antoinette Donegan, Mina Shafik, Paloma Wasserstein, Wendy Deshong, Neil Berry, & Laura-Jean Watters

Community Announcements

  • Joe M is still receiving asylum seekers at his food pantry. He estimates half are from the hotels.
  • Donna S received information about an interesting lecture series about Food Accessibility at Rutgers Saturday, Feb 18th, 2023.
  • Donna S spoke about a conversation she had with her dean, and her dean is excited about the partnership between SIHTF and CORE 100 (Civics program at CSI). They are just ironing out the specifics of responsibilities. Likely to begin in March, will work with the executive committee.

Elections

  • One candidate for Chair, Terry Troia. One candidate for Vice-Chair, Christopher Dowling.
  • Secretary Terry asked Heather Butts if she would accept the Secretary position and she agreed.
  • Terry and Chris elected Chair and Vice-Chair by acclamation, no-one ran against them.

Chair and Vice-Chair Ideas for 2023

  • Terry and Chris spoke about what they would like to see in 2023.
    • Terry shared that the executives had a great meeting to discuss what are the most important needs post-COVID. It is important for us to prepare for the legislative forum and to understand what the pieces of legislation on the table are. This way we can effectively advocate for the hunger needs of our community. Last year we heard many diverse perspectives on food needs from many communities. Legislative forum is planned for Presidents week and will include inviting elected officials. Special invitation to the new executive director of the mayor’s office of food policy. 2 significant changes in legislators, including a new assemblyman who covers a portion of the north shore and a new state senator who is our north shore representative. Important to get them to explain what is being voted on and how they can advocate for Staten Island to get more funding.
    • Chris’s goal is to learn and absorb everyone;’s thoughts so we can synthesize the desires of the group. Chris works with an advocacy group and wants to utilize his skills and connection to support the hunger task force. Biggest problem going forward is generating excitement and enthusiasm for hunger advocacy on Staten Island. Chris urges everyone to reach out to their contacts and reinvigorate the task force. Pandemic has slowed down, food insecurity has grown and the work is there for us to do.

Chair and Vice-Chair Propose New Committees

  • We are aware that everyone works other jobs and can be tough to meet for the task force. Prior two years we had an outreach and volunteer committee that did not survive.

Chris and Terry are proposing to continue Food for All, which also serves as our legislative committee and add a new committee: The Data Committee. This committee will gather reportable numbers from the pantries to identify our food needs, and to see how many meals were served and specific demographics that were served. Data is a prime factor in grant applications and advocacy. He also believes it is important to take steps toward incorporating data in our process. Chris shared that last year they got an update on the questionnaire, and that the next step is to do in person outreach. There are other websites out there listing pantries that can supplement our website. He also shared that CityHarvest would be a good source for data. Chris agrees with Andrew’s point and that we should focus on the last quarter of 2022. Will meet with Terry to determine how to go forward, likely the creation of a new form… Susan highlighted the importance of reaching out to small pantries. Data Committee volunteers; Chris, Susan, Clara, Andrew Neil Berry volunteered for phone calls. Andrew can put the questionnaire together, Donna can help. Chris, Donna, and Andrew can meet later this week.

 

The floor was opened for new discussion:

  • A note was made that the East Shore of Staten Island has an Asian community in need of food and that there are not many pantries to service this area. Susan also made a note that there seem to be many food pantries opening in schools. Chris has a list of all the principals of schools and will contact everyone to see what they are doing to combat food insecurity.

Food For All Report; Forum and Food Bank Summit

  • Terry shared information about the forum. Third week in February, Terry has already reached out to major parties to speak before the event. There is also an ask out to the ED of Mayor’s Food Policy. First group need is to meet with the Food Bank and City Harvest to see what needs are. The Food Bank is having a summit and Terry recommends interested parties attend. Recommends sending out blast to everyone on our list about the event.
  • Neil Berry asked about the Farm Bill, Terry said is renewed every 5 years
  • Mr. Berry then asked about food stamp reductions due to the increase in social security. Terry will try to get someone to speak on that topic. If anyone else has something they want to address during the forum it is asked that they voice that now. Put it in the chat if not speaking up.
  • Chris spoke to California’s system of free lunches, and that it may serve as a model for what we should advocate for. It was noted that there is a national movement for free lunches.

Asylees Update

  • PH has been providing services since the hotels opened to asylees, there have been asylum seekers at the PH family shelter for more than a year. More than half families at Hospitality House are refugees/asylees. El Centro has also seen a high number of new immigrants. City is in discussion with churches to open up as shelters for asylum seekers but this is still a discussion. City issued RFP for a legal provider to champion this cause and no one has come forward. Catholic Charities can be invited to come and speak on the Asylee situation because they are managing the welcome process over the whole city, they have the bigger picture. This may be possible topic for our next meeting, people are interested.

Post Covid Observations and Food Pantry Impact:

  • Terry shared that what we see on Staten Island is the fallout of the closure of emergency COVID programs. They ended abruptly in June, many pop up pantries filled the gap and now those are gone. The rise in food price is not being addressed by food aid. No one has bounced back economically to where they were pre-COVID. Many different factors and playing into Staten Island not receiving the food it needs to address hunger.

Next meeting: February 6 at 3:30 PM


Banner Image: Food pantry.  Image Credit – Aaron Doucett


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SI Hunger Task Force

The SI Hunger Task Force is not a pantry. Instead, we connect community members to pantries and pantries to community and government resources.

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