Brooklyn Does Good

By Amanda Stone

The first ever Brooklyn Do-Gooder Awards were announced this week by the Brooklyn Community Foundation, at least a couple of the winners are helping reduce hunger and poverty through food.

Dr. Melony Samuels, Brooklyn Do-Gooder

Over 300,000 votes were cast by the community to determine twenty initial finalists, chosen for their selfless charitable work to better Brooklyn and its residents. The six recipients were then selected by a panel of judges. Their work varies: winners included urban farmers who are growing food for the hungry, tutors who are helping children of imprisoned parents, musicians sharing their skills with youth, and community activists who are planning community events and helping promote civic engagement.

One recipient of the award is Melony Samuels, founder and executive director of the Bed Stuy (Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood) Campaign Against Hunger. Melony left a successful career as an insurance executive because of a chance meeting with a woman who had no food, so she could fight the root causes of hunger. The Campaign began as a food bank with pre-packed bags and grew into an operation that supplies 10,000 meals each month to families in need and also provides on-site services and classes to help empower people to lift themselves out of poverty. The food pantry is one of NYC’s largest emergency food programs, and it is uniquely run similar to a supermarket — food is selected by client choice according to preference rather than receiving pre-packaged bags. In 2008 the organization also transformed a neighborhood vacant lot into a 2,000 sq. ft. Victory Garden Farm – the first of six and Bed Stuy’s first community urban garden – that engages volunteers and community members to harvest produce.

In the United States, community food banks and soup kitchens have proven to be one of the most effective ways to reduce hunger. Many of them are supplied by food rescue operations that collect day-old bread, bruised produce or other to-be-thrown-out foods from grocers, restaurants and farmers. But they’ve been stretched thin in recent years, hit by declining donations even as more Americans show up at food bank doors. In the Nourishing the Planet travels, we saw many food aid storage facilities, but they often don’t operate at the scale of communities or neighborhoods.

Each Do Gooder Awardee will receive $5,000 to reinvest in the Brooklyn charity(s) of their choice or in a Brooklyn Community Foundation Field of Interest fund. All will be publicly recognized on November 3, 2010 at the “Brooklyn Does Good” celebration at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Palm House.

Do you know of any community food pantries or food bank efforts in Africa? Send your suggestions to dnierenberg@worldwatch.org. We are heading next to Nigeria and would love to include them in our research.

Amanda Stone is the Communications Assistant for Nourishing the Planet.

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