In celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., hundreds of volunteers joined Met Council for its annual MLK Day of Service and signed up for shifts at Met Council's Greenpoint Fulfillment Center to help package emergency food deliveries for Holocaust survivors on the January 18 holiday. Four 90-minute socially distanced shifts were filled with immediate demand as New Yorkers proudly signed up to work the national holiday in service of their neighbors.
But the city funding behind the Greenpoint warehouse has run out and unless the city comes up with emergency funding for food providers, thousands fewer deliveries will be made. In May, the city acted boldly to get $25 million distributed to soup kitchens and food pantries that knew their communities best. More than 575 pantries benefited from that emergency money and were able to increase capacity, staffing and food distribution. Unfortunately, that grant ended on December 31.
"It was a true joy to see so many volunteers turn out in service of their neighbors on Monday and gave their time in honor of Dr. King's legacy, but our capacity to manage big distributions like this will suffer unless the city comes through with more funding," said David G. Greenfield, CEO, Met Council. "It was an incredibly hopeful moment in what has been an otherwise dour start to the year. I hope the city recognizes the great need in our city and prioritizes emergency funding for food providers like Met Council. Our staff and volunteers have worked nonstop since this pandemic hit, but we need more help."
"The influx of volunteers who signed up for these shifts on Martin Luther King Day was truly impressive and we are so thankful for the response," said Leah Schechter, Met Council's Senior Director of Volunteer Services and Donor Engagement. "The community really showed up to help us in our effort to feed our fellow New Yorkers. And I was proud to see all the young faces eager to learn and quick to embrace empathy at the S.N.A.P. Grocery Store Challenge on Monday evening. New Yorkers are at their best when they come together to help each other."
In partnership with the UJA Federation of New York, Met Council called on volunteers to sign up for a shift in honor of Dr. King's life and legacy. Hundreds of volunteers quickly signed up and pledged their time to package groceries for Met Council's food delivery program. PPE was distributed to all workers and masks were required at all times, as they always are at Met Council volunteer locations.
Though the typical, in-person acts of service had to be limited to the volunteer shifts, Met Council also hosted a virtual S.N.A.P. Grocery Store Challenge on Monday evening so families could get involved and support Met Council's clients. The one-hour interactive event was centered on building empathy and solidarity for clients of Met Council and all those who receive federal food benefits.
Met Council has delivered thousands of meal packages to struggling families, Holocaust survivors, and other homebound New Yorkers since the start of the pandemic. As economic conditions worsened, Met Council expanded their operations, rapidly scaled up deliveries, and opened a new warehouse in Brooklyn. With so many Holocaust survivors vulnerable to COVID-19, Met Council pledged to provide weekly deliveries through not only the end of the pandemic but for the rest of their lives. Volunteers on Monday helped package food deliveries for survivors throughout the New York region.
Met Council is America’s largest Jewish charity dedicated to serving the needy. The organization's ten different departments are staffed by experts who help hundreds of thousands of clients each year and advocate on behalf of all needy New Yorkers. Met Council's programs range from 100% affordable housing at 20 locations to an award-winning family violence program to Holocaust survivor assistance to senior programming to crisis intervention to the largest free kosher food distribution program in the world. Met Council's network of 101 food pantries, affordable housing sites, and JCCs provide services directly in neighborhoods across New York.