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St. Mark’s Food Pantry Reopens

St. Mark's Food PantryMeghan Keneally The food pantry has reopened.

St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery started its annual food pantry last week, providing much needed food options for homeless and hungry in the East Village.

While there are two existing soup kitchens that provide hot meal options throughout the week, St. Mark’s is the only food pantry that is open mid week, allowing visitors to bring home fresh produce and non perishables so their supplies last till the weekend.

“There just aren’t enough services in this area, and people slip through the cracks,” said the Rev. Winnie Varghese of St. Mark’s.

After a previous relationship with Trader Joe’s ended in late 2009 due to rising costs on the supermarket’s side, Ms. Varghese partnered up with GreenMarket last year and they agreed to donate any remaining produce from the farmer’s market that they hold in the church square on Tuesdays. The food pantry at St. Mark’s will run every Wednesday at 6 p.m. and they hope to continue it through the winter if funding allows.
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Sharing Food, Showing ‘Some Love’

DSC_0100Meredith Hoffman A line form at Tompkins Square Park to await food distribution by the volunteers of Bowery Mission.

Beyond serving as a green refuge, Tompkins Square Park offers a wide range of eating experiences. A recent food tasting in the park allowed area restaurants to serve up their creations. Locals frequent the Sunday morning farmers’ market where artisanal cheese from Hudson Valley farms and apples from nearby orchards are among a host of organic produce.

Saturday mornings, around 8 o’clock, a lengthy line reminiscent of Coxey’s Army begins to form along Avenue A. A broad ethnic mix of people, many aged or infirm wait patiently alongside mothers with their children in strollers. Most are wheeling shopping carts. Some on crutches, in wheel chairs form a separate line.
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Church’s Hot Meal Service to Resume

DSC_0110Meredith Hoffman Amy Ferrera, 5, enjoys a cupcake from the food pantry at Tompkins Square Park.

After a fire last November that destroyed their giant kitchen and drew national attention, Long Island-based Hope for the Future Ministries plans to begin serving hot meals again next month in Tompkins Square Park.

“We’ll have a grand reopening,” said Pastor Diane Dunn, who has been providing food and household items to people in the park for the past 22 years.

Since the fire, Pastor Dunn and her church have continued coming to the park on Wednesday evenings with groceries from the food bank, hot dogs and other donations from a neighboring restaurant. On Saturdays next month they will start serving full hot meals, everything from Salisbury steak to cake.

Over 200 people come each week to “the line,” in the park, with the seniors given priority to get their food first. But the faces on the “the line” have changed, she said.

“I’ve seen a change in the population who comes here—more middle class unemployed, who’ve run out of their unemployment,” Ms. Dunn said. “Numbers were down for a while and then when the recession hit—Boom! They increased.”
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