A new public-private partnership seeks to help close the meal gap in the south Bronx
The new Nutrition Kitchen, which opened at South Bronx NeON (Neighborhood Opportunity Network) on Monday, July 13, was created through a collaboration between the Department of Probation, the Food Bank for New York City and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City.
NeON helps the Department of Probation provide clients with resources to address challenges in their lives, such as employment and education, to enable them to be successful in their reentry to society.
The Nutrition Kitchen, which will provide bags of food as well as nutrition information and cooking demonstrations, came out of the DOP’s discovery that probation officers in the south Bronx were giving their personal lunches to clients who were hungry.
“Our staff has been providing food for their clients for a very long time,” said DOP commissioner Ana Bermúdez.
Probation is a stage of opportunity in the justice system, she said, and it’s important for the department to support clients in a wholistic way as they try to succeed.
“We want to get the message out that being successful on probation, the definition of that, cannot just be criminal justice outcomes, it has to include well being and health outcomes for our clients,” said Bermúdez. “You need to be healthy in order to conquer your life’s challenges, as well as to have a successful future.”
New York City is facing an enormous meal gap, where 1.4 million are food insecure, said Lisa Hines-Johnson, chief of operations at the Food Bank for New York City.
The new partnership with DOP allows the Food Bank to better reach their clients as well as others in the community through NeON.
“It takes more than one organization to meet the needs across the city,” said Hines-Johnson.
Fighting hunger is essential creating an environment where people can succeed, she said.
“It’s important to make sure you have a healthy, nutritious meal to go about your day,” said Hines-Johnson. “It affects you physically, mentally and emotionally.”
DOP Bronx branch chief Darryl Williams said he’s seen how many DOP clients are in need of food, and how hunger affects the rest of their life.
In addition, clients respond to the fact that DOP staff try to help them with parts of their life outside probation, be it food, education or employment.
“They look at us in a different light, they look at us as really trying to help them,” said Williams.
Several of NeONs resources, including GED classes and the nutrition kitchen, are available to the general public, magnifying the office’s impact in the community.
The South Bronx Nutrition Kitchen is the first of five that the DOP plans to open at NeONs throughout the city.
The Nutrition Kitchen will be available for DOP clients Monday through Friday, and will be open to the general public on Friday’s between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.