Economic Hardship Among Residents With Strict Religious Dietary Requirements Rising On Staten Island – Food Pantry Demand Outpacing Supply


Minutes From The October 2, 2023 Meeting


Neil Berry, Heather Butts, Benjamin Zaientz, Yitzchok Krakauer, Jody Stoll, Jamilah, Marsha Rubenstein,Ginny Mantello, Shakeia McPherson, Zulqarnain Abdu-Shahid, Samantha Telle, Laura Jean Watters, Giomelly Barton, Nicole Hunt, Ieshu Ingram, Lynnell Bruno, Cathay Carlson, Alemayehu, Iftikhar Butt, Joe T, Iva Reuven, Mendy Mirocznik, Terry Troia, Susan Fowler, Chris Dowling, Tommy Bond

Heather Butts: Motion to approve minutes from September, Seconded by Chris Dowling, Passes without objection or abstention.

Terry Troia: Welcomed everyone to our special discussion and info-sharing session on the Kosher and Halal needs of Staten Islanders with food needs. Introduced Mendy of COJO (Council of Jewish Organizations) Staten Island who has been running a pantry for several decades.

Rabbi Mendy Mireocznik – President of COJO SI and Exec VP of Igud HaRabbonim

COVID-19 opened our eyes to the needs of the kosher pantry consumer in Staten Island. Just before COVID we saw a shift in demographics towards the Ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic Communities, who typically have large families with 5-13 children per household.

For Rosh Hashanah this year alone there were somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 families to feed. This is in addition to the needs of the typical, less stringent kosher consumer.

Iva Reuven handles that population at the Aur Torah food pantry. Between these two pantries alone roughly 1500 families are served.

There have been challenges in getting the kosher foods needed to cover this population, particularly with the Heimishe foods needed for the Ultra Orthodox and Hasidic communities.

There is widespread economic distress especially among those with limited or fixed incomes. One positive outcome that has been seen since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, is that people no longer seem afraid or embarrassed to seek help from a food pantry.

Iva Reuven – COJO Pantry Coordinator: Aur Torah is a monthly drive-up pantry that takes place in New Springville.

The kosher consumer is not only the Jewish population. This pantry caters to Muslim families, Christian families, and others who live by kosher food guidelines. There are also many senior citizens served at Aur Torah.

There is excessive need, and the fixed incomes cannot keep up with the rapidly rising prices of food, particularly when those already inflated prices get higher with the demand of the high holy days.

This population is looking for SNAP assistance, and any other assistance they can find to mitigate the cost of food. This pantry does roughly 150 bags not including the other synagogues they coordinate with and distribute through. The need and turnout at the pantry seems to be on an upward trend.

Jenny Ahmed – Iftikhar’s wife, Executive Director of Staten Island Social Adult Day Care Halal pantry on Richmond Road. They service Asian Muslims, Chinese, Jewish, and Nigerian communities amongst others. They serve 400-600 families per pantry distribution. They always have a long line, and additionally cater to roughly 150 senior citizens via a mobile pantry/ home delivery service. Their pantry takes place on the last Saturday of the month, from 11AM to 5PM

Jamilah – Bait-ul Jamaat House of Community

At the Bait-ul Jamaat House of Community they strive to provide food security, mental health through the arts, as well as advocacy and education to those in need.

The Bait-ul Jamaat House of Community runs a pantry program with both a walk up pantry and a mobile pantry.

They provide services for all families through the walk up pantry, and host the mobile pantry for seniors and persons who are mobility limited. Founded in 2015 they have served over 76.000 families since their inception.

They service roughly 400 families per month. Their Service areas include New Brighton for their walk up pantry and mostly Mid-island for the mobile pantry.

They service the Black American, Latino, African Muslim, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi populations primarily. They provide strictly Halal items for consumption, including their produce and canned goods. They receive aid from Islam Relief USA and ICNA USA.

Imam Zulqarnain

They operate both a mobile pantry and a seasonal mobile soup kitchen. They are also involved in outreach, particularly for families where the dynamic is a grandparent raising their grandchild/ren.

The mobile soup kitchen, cleverly titled Soup for the Soul, operates outside the SI Ferry on a seasonal basis in the colder months, and services roughly 100 families per distribution. Their pantry operates at 182 Corson Ave every other Thursday from 11am until supplies run out.

Benjamin Zaientz – Met council on Jewish Poverty

Met council serves and provides food for an extensive network of Kosher and Halal food banks and pantries. There seems to be an ever growing need and a lack of support.

To meet the growing needs of the people, advocacy is of the utmost importance. Met council does advocacy work from small local governments all the way up to the federal level. They have recently launched a digital choice pantry via the Jewish Community Center where clients can individually select the products for their pantry bag and then pick them up at their local location. They hope to expand the digital choice pantry program in the near future.

Yitzchok Krakauer – VAAD

Dr. Krakauer mostly works with the particular food needs of the Ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic communities who require a higher Kosher certification known as Heimishe.

Their network alone does its best to cater for roughly 600 struggling, large families (5-13 children per family is common). Their Rosh Hoshannah chicken was cut back from 100 cases to 50 cases while in the same period the amount of families in need rose roughly 50%.

Technical Glitch – meeting resumed after

Terry Troia – Farm Bill

Project Hospitality, Food Bank for NYC, City Harvest, and United Way are actively and continuously advocating at the office of Congresswoman Malliotakis. Nicole Malliotakis cosponsored the Hot Foods Act with other NY congressional members, which will allow the purchase of hot and prepared foods using SNAP benefits if passed. This piece of legislation is especially important for people who live in Single room occupancies without kitchen access, as well as the unhoused who collect SNAP benefits. Our advocacy is looking to add $550 Million to TEFAP which brings food to food banks and pantries, such as canned goods, dry grains, and other nonperishable goods. The Religious Leadership on Staten Island is waiting on a meeting with Congresswoman Malliotakis, which is being set up and facilitated via Rev. Karen Pershing. We are encouraging all pantries and other members of the hunger task force to send letters in support of the Farm Bill and the Hot Foods Act  to the office of Nicole Malliotakis. We will soon be providing a sample letter that ideally would be placed on each organization’s letterhead and submitted.

Nicole Hunt – Food Bank for NYC – Farm Bill (returning after technical glitch)

There has been a 45 day Continuing Resolution after a potential government shut down. We are hoping that the Hot Foods Act gains enough support to be included in the Farm Bill.

Committee Reports

Governance Committee – Susan Fowler

The Governance committee meeting on 9/6/23. Governing principles are now listed on the SIHTF website and the membership form is ready. The Links are included just below.

Link to Governing Principles:

Link to Membership Form:

Data Committee – Chris Dowling (Unable to speak so Terry Troia gave a few words)

We are working on the diagram of compiled data and streamlining our Data collection.

November meeting –  Thanksgiving Plans at pantries

December meeting – Pantry plans for December holidays

Terry Troia

We missed two groups with our meetings this year that we hope to possibly include in our December meeting, or to address early next year. These groups are the Asian Community and Elderly Immigrants.

Susan Fowler

If anyone has experience distributing pet food at pantries please reach out. Looking to start a pet food pantry initiative.

Meeting Adjourned

Banner Image: Streets in Jerusalem. Image Credit – Dave Herring


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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