Before, most food pantry visitors were African-American or Latino, said Mireille Massac, CSDC’s public relations coordinator.
Now, they’re also white and Asian, rich and poor - and they’re coming to CSDC’s Fort Greene pantry from as far off as Far Rockaway in Queens and Staten Island. Of the approximately 140 people who line up at the food pantry for free meals the first Thursday of every month, half are first-time applicants, Massac said.
Yet despite the tough times - or perhaps because of them - people who have something to give are giving back more than ever before, Mireille said.
This trend was evident at a recent Thanksgiving food drive organized by 57th Assembly District Leader Olanike Alabi. Canned and packaged food from the event, held November 19 at the Teen Challenge Center on Clinton Avenue, went to CSDC, which serves thousands of area residents annually.
The food drive “provides food for those who will otherwise have a hard time finding food” during the holidays, said Alabi. “It's very important for us.”
One man at the food drive, Elvie Moore, of Fort Greene, said grassroots social service efforts are crucial in a city where low-income neighborhoods are often neglected. Moore said he has felt unemployment and hunger rise since the economy nose-dived last year.
“Neighborhoods like Fort Greene, Bedford-Stuyvesant, predominantly minority communities suffer more as a whole,” Moore said. “This isn’t anything new.”
What is new, at least in recent memory, is a feeling of solidarity amongst neighbors looking to help those in even worse shape then themselves. During a time when city resources are scarce, said Massac, community efforts make a big difference.
“People who are suffering realize there are people who are suffering more,” she said. “This year because of the economic crisis people are feeling more generous.”
Indeed, at Alabi’s food drive people from neighborhoods like Bed-Stuy or Crown Heights showed up, dropped off a bag of canned goods for donation, then got online for the promised free dinner.
“We’re gathering food for the poor,” said Everleen Cook, a retired senior and member of the local democratic club. “It’s really nice.”