- Voice of a Guest…Eugene
- Voice of a Volunteer: Rachel
- Are You Hungry for Change?
- Morning Meal Prep at Soup Kitchen
- Save the Date: Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding
- Our Guests by the Numbers
- Feeding 100 with Food Waste
- NYC Service Volunteer Honors
Voice of a Guest: Eugene’s Story
In 2017, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced a new plan to screen all veterans who visit their health care centers for food insecurity. The initiative comes at a time when a shocking number of U.S. veterans are struggling with hunger.
One such veteran is soup kitchen guest Eugene, who served in the Vietnam War and first came to Holy Apostles for a meal in the 1980’s. “I was volunteering at St. Michaels (an Episcopal parish on the Upper West Side) where I met Liz Maxwell,” he says, referring to former Associate Rector of Holy Apostles Reverend Liz Maxwell. “She told me about the soup kitchen.”
He was pleased to find that the soup kitchen offered a warm and welcoming environment, and that the food prepared with care and intention. “I have my own grading scale for soup kitchens,” he says, “and this place gets an A plus. The food is always fresh. It’s cooked the same day that they serve it.”
In the mid 2000’s Eugene left New York City for Chicago, seeking a lower cost of living. But when he arrived he found the city was almost as expensive as New York, and struggled to afford his monthly rent. He returned to New York, this time with his financial resources depleted and even fewer options for housing. “The only place I could afford to go was Ward’s Island,” he says, referring to the small Manhattan island that houses several homeless shelters, along with other public institutions.
Eugene doesn’t go into detail about these difficult months, but he alludes to the effect that the stresses of homelessness had on his mental state. “If you suffer from mental illness, being homeless can exacerbate it,” he says. “Because you carry your home with you.”
Though rates of veteran homelessness are declining in most states, homelessness and food insecurity are still serious issues affecting the veteran population. In the soup kitchen’s spring 2018 guest survey, we learned that of the 14% of our guests who said they have served in the military, 68% are unhoused.
Even for veterans who are not homeless, putting nutritious food on the table can be a struggle. Close to 1.5 million veterans in the U.S. live in households that participate in SNAP, according to data the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. And veterans with disabilities or mental illness are much more likely to be food insecure than their peers.
Fortunately, Eugene’s period of homelessness was brief. “I was lucky,” he says. After four months he found a subsidized studio apartment through the VA, where he has lived for the past ten years.
These days, Eugene plans his visits to the local VA office so that he can stop by Holy Apostles for a healthy lunch, helping him to stretch his SNAP benefits to the end of the month. “I eat a little bit healthier here than I do at home,” he says. “A little more balanced.”
Voice of a Volunteer: Rachel’s Story
“He was hungry most days,” she recalls. After buying him food and helping him to get an ID so he could get into a shelter, she asked herself, “How can I help James on a greater level?”
“The more people I spoke to, the more I realized how difficult it can be to find food,” she explains, describing the irregular schedules offered elsewhere. “My mission was to find a soup kitchen that provided daily meals. Holy Apostles operates FIVE days a week, serving approximately 1,000 meals per day!”
A busy professional, Rachel volunteers whenever her schedule allows, often on holidays. By getting to know James, and getting to know Holy Apostles, she has become more motivated than ever to advocate for hungry and homeless New Yorkers.
“I have participated in the Fast-A-Thon for two years now and plan to do so for years to come,” she says. “It’s a great opportunity to spread awareness and motivate others to donate to this great cause.” Each year on her Fast-A-Thon campaign page Rachel includes James in her story, and how she found Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen as a result of their connection.
“I have witnessed beautiful exchanges between patrons and volunteers,” she says. “Many know each other by name. Participants befriend one another. It is a true communal atmosphere where patrons receive sustenance for both soul and body.”
This Fall, you can help raise awareness about hunger and much needed funds for the soup kitchen by participating in our 7th Annual Fast-A-Thon. For many of our guests, the meal they have at Holy Apostles is the only meal they’ll eat all day. By pledging to eat just one meal on November 15th in solidarity with our guests and all food insecure New Yorkers, you can make a difference in the lives of thousands who rely on the soup kitchen for their daily nutrition.
You can sign up as an individual or form a fundraising team with friends and colleagues. There, you’ll create a personalized fundraising page that contributes towards our main fundraising goal. And if you are unable to fast, you can still support the campaign by donating or helping to publicize an individual or team effort.
“Fast-a-Thon encourages solidarity with those who experience food insecurity, expanding our consciousness of hunger and inviting us to turn our hearts toward the needs of our most vulnerable neighbors,” says Executive Director Rev. Dr. Anna Pearson. “Inviting family members, friends and coworkers to participate broadens this community of compassion. Every gift of any size helps sustain people marginalized by hunger or homelessness.”
Morning Meal Prep at the Soup Kitchen
6 AM – Our kitchen staff arrives bright and early to start prepping for the day’s meal service. They take out the trash, ready the kitchen, and fire up the ovens and kettles.
6:30 – 8:30 AM – With everything in its place, it’s time to start the day’s meal. Using raw ingredients have been prepped the day before, it takes our chefs about two hours to prepare the 350 pounds of meat, 250 pounds of vegetables, and 100 gallons of coffee or tea that will be served that day.
9 AM – Once the food for the day is cooked and ready, our chefs can start their prep work for the next day’s meal. With the help of several volunteers, they wash and chop all of the raw meat and vegetables for the following day in the downstairs prep kitchen. Meanwhile, another group of volunteers assembles 90-200 bagged lunches to be delivered to the area surrounding Penn Station.
10:00 AM – While our volunteers get suited up in aprons and gloves, our chefs transfer hot food to the warming ovens and set up the serving line. They show volunteers how to portion and plate the meal to be nutritionally balanced and attractive. Once the trays are ready, we can open the doors to the day’s first guests!
Save the Date for Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding
This fall, The Church of the Holy Apostles will be the latest venue for the classic Off-Broadway hit Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding, an Off-Broadway comedy staged as a festive celebration in which the audience participates directly in the fun as wedding guests. This immersive performance featuring original cast members will be sure to delight “wedding guests” as they take part in the romantic ceremony and lively reception dinner, Italian-American style.
Producers, original cast performers and Broadway and Screen acting veterans Anthony Patellis (best known for his role as Charles Cirillo in HBO’s The Sopranos), Susan Campanaro, and Janine Molinari knew the soup kitchen was the perfect place for the revival of this timeless hit when they visited during serving hours. “When we saw all these people eating lunch family style at about 20 round tables in this magnificent church, we just had a ‘eureka moment’,” recalls Janine. “We knew we had to perform Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding right here,” said Susan.
“Wedding guests” will enjoy pasta, garlic bread, salad and wedding cake along with a champagne toast and cash bar, with Tony and Tina happily donating proceeds from the event to support the soup kitchen.
Performance will take place on Saturday, October 13. Tickets may be purchased.
Our Guests by the Numbers
Our 2018 Guest Survey gave us valuable insight into the demographics and concerns of our soup kitchen guests. Conducted on April 27, 2018 with help from our Good Corporate Citizen friends at Coach, the full survey can be found on the “Current Issues” page of our website. This year we saw an increase in our younger (31-45) and oldest (73+) guests, and a slight decrease (-4%) in street homelessness. We learned that 21% of our guests who are homeless are also employed, and that many of our guests are highly educated: 22% have completed a college degree, and 18% have college credits. Of the 14% of guests who have served in the military, 68% are homeless and 33% are unemployed.
Feeding 100 with Food Waste
On the afternoon of May 8, 2018, the Holy Apostles kitchen was bustling with activity from orange-clad students from the High School for Environmental Studies. The students were participating in a new Food Ed. Curriculum developed by the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, a nonprofit farm and education center in upstate New York, and prepared a beautiful vegetarian meal for 100 guests using donated ingredients and “seconds” produce – bruised and imperfect fruits and vegetables usually slated for the waste bin. Our guests left happy, and students left with the satisfaction of putting their education into action to help hungry community members.
New York City Service Honors Volunteers
At the soup kitchen, we are fortunate to have a dedicated corps of volunteers that we can depend on every week. Our volunteers come from all different backgrounds and life experiences, but they all share a commitment to service and making a positive difference in their communities. This year, NYC Service and Mayor Bill De Blasio have formally recognized and thanked over 100 of our most dedicated soup kitchen volunteers, who all contributed at least 100 hours of service to Holy Apostles during 2017. See a full list of volunteers honored.