Two UWS Nonprofits Come Together to Feed Vulnerable Seniors; ‘People Down the Street Just Would Not Have Food’

Isabella Di Pietro delivering meals to seniors on W 84th. Photo by Livi Biase.

By Lisa Kava

When West Side Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing (WSFSSH), a nonprofit that houses low-income senior citizens, suddenly found themselves in a pinch needing to feed 18 residents on West 84th Street, another UWS-based organization, Feed the Frontlines NYC, quickly came to the rescue.

WSFSSH has been located on the UWS for 45 years. According to Executive Director Paul Freitag, in a phone conversation with WSR, it provides shelter for 2,200 seniors in various buildings on the Upper West Side, and in Harlem and the South Bronx. About half of the residents have a history of homelessness.

Luca Di Pietro, UWS resident and restaurant owner, along with his family established Feed the Frontlines NYC at the beginning of the pandemic, in order to provide free meals to ER and ICU workers. In June, the organization shifted to help serve shelters and supportive housing residences, when the Di Pietro’s realized that so many were experiencing increasing food insecurity. Di Pietro owns Tarallucci e Vino on Columbus Avenue at 83rd Street, as well as four other locations. Feed the Frontlines NYC relies entirely on private donations; friends and neighbors purchase meals for those in need through the website.

In late October, Isabella Di Pietro, Luca Di Pietro’s daughter and co-founder of Feed the Frontlines NYC, received an urgent call from a staff member at WSFSSH. One of their other main food providers, World Central Kitchen, which served meals to seniors at a building called the Ben Michalski Residence on West 84th Street, was no longer able to provide food. “We needed to fill in the void that was left quickly and get food to the residents,” said Freitag.

“I immediately said we’d do everything we could,” said Isabella. The Di Pietro family raised $8,000 in 24 hours through word of mouth, specifically to provide food for the seniors in the West 84th Street residence.

A kitchen worker at Tarallucci e Vino preparing lunch for the seniors. Photo by Livi Biase.

“This was a moment when 18 people down the street just would not have food in a few days. We needed to help,” said Isabella, who has been personally delivering lunches from Tarallucci e Vino and two partner restaurants, Lolo’s Seafood Shack and Modern Bread and Bagel, daily to the seniors. The lunches range from lasagna and chicken pesto with potatoes to Caribbean food or sandwiches.

“These are very low-income residents for whom affording and preparing food can be a challenge. The partnership with Feed the Frontlines NYC helps ensure that they have enough to eat,” said Freitag, who noted that the Ben Michalski building on 84th Street houses seniors who have come out of the shelter system. This was by no means the first time the two organizations have worked together. Feed the Frontlines NYC began to provide food to the seniors living in WSFSSH housing early in the pandemic.

Housing for seniors through WSFSSH includes shared kitchens, bathrooms and congregate dining facilities. “When Covid hit last spring I felt our seniors were really at risk,” said Freitag, who encouraged them to stay home. Historically WSFSS provided one meal a day to all residents 4-5 days a week, Freitag told WSR, “All of a sudden we had to provide three meals a day since the residents could not leave their apartments to shop for food.”

Through research and phone calls with city agencies in April, Freitag and his team at WSFSSH learned about Feed the Frontlines NYC. The two organizations began to work together. “By May, we were providing 2,700 meals to 450 residents in 6 different buildings through Feed the Frontlines NYC, which became one of our food providers,” said Freitag.

Isabella Di Pietro says Feed the Frontlines NYC will continue to serve lunches to the seniors at the Ben Michalski residence as long as they have funding. “We would love to help indefinitely but we are taking it week by week.”

If you would like to purchase meals through Feed the Frontlines for seniors in need click here. Every donation made during the holiday season (between now and the end of December) will be matched by a generous supporter. 

NEWS | 7 comments | permalink
    1. Sarah says:

      Beautiful to see people in the community reaching out to help their less fortunate neighbors.

    2. Janet Pearlman says:

      Where can I make a donation?

    3. Bill says: Here is the donation link and it is above as well. What a great iniative. Happy to support Thx WSR for the coverage.

    4. ES says:

      Thank you for sharing information about charities and organizations that exist on the UWS, especially those that support people in need.

    5. Burtnor says:

      Another organization: West Side Campaign Against Hunger –

    6. It’s great that there are still people who are selflessly concerned about others. It seems that feeding someone is a trifle. But not many do it. I would say units. It seems to me that it has become out of fashion to help those in need. I don’t know much about charity centers and their activities. I understand why there are so few of them. I think it would be great if those in need can be helped not only with food and clothing. I think they need a job. Without work, a person loses the meaning of life. When I’m busy, I don’t think bad things. My head is busy and I have no time to grist.
      Thanks for the good news: Regards Dr. Jearene Binet