By Jon Methven
An antiquated, damaged oven that slows cooking time tremendously. Dull knives. Broken utensils. Worn pots and pans. These are just some of the issues the Advent Food Ministry has encountered over the years, which they are planning to address with their Kitchen Makeover GoFundMe Fundraiser.
Every Saturday morning, New Yorkers assemble on West 93rd Street in a line extending up the block and north onto Amsterdam Avenue. They come for a hot lunch, a bag of fresh fruit and groceries, and camaraderie. For several decades, the Food Ministry at Advent Lutheran Church on the corner of Broadway and 93rd Street has worked diligently to provide for the Upper West Side community.
The Advent Food Program is made up of two teams: Community Lunch, which is headed by Lauren Johnson and Fred Grumm, and the Food Pantry headed by Frankie Thompkins. The hunger relief efforts have persevered in the face of significant challenges: the 2008 financial crisis, rising prices, faulty plumbing, burnt hands, cut fingers, winter storms, COVID-19, and most recently, an upsizing in citywide hunger relief needs.
In 2019, the program distributed a little over 40,000 meals to the community. In 2020, that number jumped to 85,000-plus, and in 2021 it leapt to 450,000-plus meals and has maintained that level of distribution ever since.
“We’ve faced numerous challenges over the years, from financial crises to an actual pandemic, but our commitment to serving the Upper West Side community has remained unwavering,” said Advent Lutheran Church Rev. Danielle Miller. “We show up for the community because we are the community.”
Now they are facing a new challenge, and looking to the Upper West Side community to help strengthen the mission. Volunteers require infrastructure. Free lunches require dependable kitchen space and workstations. The Food Program raises funds through state and federal grants, but that money is earmarked for food and paper goods. They must raise $55,000 for a much-needed upgrade to the equipment and additional culinary enhancements.
“As leaders of the Community Lunch program, we understand the importance of reliable infrastructure. Dependable kitchen facilities are essential for providing free lunches and ensuring our mission continues,” said Fred Grumm, Community Lunch Co-Director, along with Lauren Johnson. “We are serving nearly 400 hot nutritious meals with fresh fruit and vegetables. This kitchen upgrade will allow us to double that output.”
The Food Pantry provides fresh produce, fruit, eggs, and other dry and canned food staples. The Pantry distributes groceries to approximately 500 households. The sister program, Community Lunch, serves 400 hot meals on Saturday, and distributes an additional 2,450 cold meals for later. That’s roughly 8,500 hot meals per year and 60,000 additional meals. With these critical equipment upgrades, and additional food resources, the program expects to boost meal output by 40%. This is particularly important since food prices for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs increased 13% for the year ended February 2022, the largest annual increase since July 1979, according to the Department of Labor’s latest report.
“Our focus is on providing groceries to those in need and this upgrade will significantly enhance our capacity,” said Food Pantry Director Frankie Thompkins. “With these critical upgrades, along with additional food resources, we expect to substantially increase the number of families we can support. Our program is a much-needed response to the rising food prices that have impacted so many in our community.”
Click here to learn more and donate: https://gofund.me/e9e00a4b