Dialogue 101: St. John’s Bread and Life Holiday Program

Deb Gordon’s guest was Anthony Butler, Executive Director of St. John’s Bread and Life, a non-profit that serves over 2,500 meals to hungry New Yorkers daily and also strives to ensure that the needy are treated with dignity and respect.

“One in five New Yorkers uses emergency food throughout the course of the year – that’s about 1.8 million folks, which is a lot of people and a lot of meals,” said Butler.

Based in Bed-Stuy, Bread and Life has provided a variety of free social services to the Brooklyn and Queens community for over 30 years – including advocacy, medical services, career and tax help, nutrition counseling, 2 soup kitchens, and a digital food pantry, the model of which is now utilized by other organizations across the country.

“We created a digital choice food pantry, where people actually order off a touch screen to receive their food… most people don’t completely run out of food – poor people are no more disorganized than the rest of us, but they run out of money, and so they need to supplement –they may have pasta and no sauce…and we’re able to give that,” said Butler.

 

“One of the great things, is it allows us to be much more efficient, we dramatically decreased our waste, so people are taking what they need, and it allow us to target healthier foods to folks.”

Spotlighted Bread and Life’s annual ‘Sponsor a Family’ holiday program, whereby over 2000 New York families are given holiday meals and toy packages for their families.

“We use that same digital software that we use for our food pantry and we pre-buy the toys and people can choose what they want.  And we also provide a full meal for about ten people…and almost all of that’s New York State sourced…I think we need to bring nutritious and good quality food to folks who, for financial reasons, might not have access to it,” said Butler.

The organization relies on caring community members to help support the myriad services they provide during the holidays and all year round.

“This is a great time for donations…but January 2nd the need’s still there, it doesn’t end.  “Between last year and this year in my hot meal programs I’ve seen almost an 8 percent increase, and in my food pantry programs, I’ve seen a twelve percent increase in demand,” said Butler.

“There is that classic of donate your treasure, but there’s also your time and your talent.”

For more information about St. John’s Bread and Life, and how you can help the organization help underserved New Yorkers, visit www.breadandlife.org or @breadandlife.

–Deb Gordon/WCBS-FM

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