A day dedicated to service and community-building was in full swing on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, January 19, as hundreds of volunteers turned out for the Feeding Our Neighbors: An Interfaith Response initiative held at six sites throughout New York City and Westchester.

From left, Cardinal Timothy Dolan; Eric S. Goldstein,  Jennifer Jones Austin, and Msgr. Kevin Sullivan at launch of Feeding Our Neighbors initiative on January 11.
From left, Cardinal Timothy Dolan; Eric S. Goldstein, Jennifer Jones Austin, and Msgr. Kevin Sullivan at launch of Feeding Our Neighbors initiative on January 11.

“It’s a community-building day and there’s no better way to honor the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. than coming together as part of the broader Feeding Our Neighbors initiative of UJA-Federation of New York, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, and the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies,” said Eric S. Goldstein, CEO of UJA-Federation.

Feeding Our Neighbors, now in its third year, launched on January 11 to raise awareness about the issue of hunger and food insufficiency in the New York community, with a goal of collecting and distributing 1 million meals to hungry New Yorkers. The generous donation of 300,000 pounds of food by Goya Foods has helped enhance the initiative.

Many people in New York City face the difficult decision of choosing between buying food and paying their rent, and hunger is a challenging and ongoing concern.

“Hunger remains a disturbing reality for thousands of families in this city,” said Jennifer Jones Austin, CEO and executive director of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies.

“The Feeding Our Neighbors campaign provides us with an opportunity to remind people that there is still need in our community as winter kicks in and food pantries become bare,” noted Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities.

Volunteers for a Common Cause
Nearly 200 volunteers of all ages turned out to package more than 500 bags of food at the Union Temple of Brooklyn, one of six interfaith food-packaging events held on January 19.

The event was organized by Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, Repair the World, and UJA-Federation’s Live with Purpose and Engage Jewish Service Corps from the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan. Met Council and JCC in Manhattan are part of UJA-Federation’s network of nonprofits.

Engage and Catholic Charities
Engage Volunteer Sandra Abramson and Catholic Charities volunteer Amy Klopfenstein working together at Feeding Our Neighbors event on January 19.

For Sandra Abramson, an Engage volunteer, the event was an ideal opportunity to give back and to celebrate Martin Luther King. “It’s nice to work with people from all different ages and other communities, and at a project that brings people together with similar values,” she added.

Besides creating food packages, volunteers made stuffed animals, reusable tote bags,  and trail mix bags with entitlements information that will be given to people in need. Volunteers also participated in a learning program to reflect on the meaning of their service through a study of Jewish and secular texts.

For one 7-year-old girl, it was a day she could help people. “I wanted to come today to help all of those people who don’t have anything to eat,” she said.

Food collections will continue from January through March. You can learn more about poverty in New York and Feeding Our Neighbors here.