Thanksgiving is going to be extra hard for tens of thousands of Brooklyn families this year.
The number of borough residents who qualify as “food insecure,” meaning they lack access to enough food, rose from 467,340 in 2009 to 515,420 in 2014, leading the city, the Food Bank of New York has found. More of those hungry New Yorkers are turning to help as four out of five city food pantries have seen an increase in clients, according to a study released Monday by the non-profit.
Triada Stampas, the Food Bank’s vice president of research and public affairs, said a surge in income inequality has led to the increase in food kitchen users. Those struggling will often skip meals “to keep the roof over their head, to the keep the lights on, for their MetroCard,” she said.
Those looking to help out within their community this Thanksgiving — and beyond — might consider their local food kitchen. Here are four Brooklyn kitchens dedicated to serving meals this holiday. All welcome volunteers and donations to help with their efforts year-round.
Neighbors Together, 2094 Fulton St., Ocean Hill, 718-498-7256
This community center typically serves 200 people during their weekday kitchen hours and they expect just as many on Thanksgiving Day.
Denny Marsh, the nonprofit’s executive director, said they will be serving a Thanksgiving lunch between noon and 2 p.m. Aside from the turkey, gravy and other holiday menu items, Marsh said her team wanted to make her clients feel at home in the center’s Community cafe, where the meals will be served.
“They’re having a space to come in that is warm, welcoming and upbeat,” Marsh said. “It’s not necessarily a space that our members are used to entering, like a food stamp office or a clinic.”
Masbia, 1372 Coney Island Ave., Midwood, 718-534-7410
Masbia is one of the few food kitchens in the borough that offers a kosher menu.
Alexander Rapaport, executive director of the nonprofit, said Masbia plans to serve 650 turkey drumsticks and 75 turkeys from 3 to 7 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.
Rapaport said the kitchen’s clients and volunteers hail from different backgrounds.
“We don’t see them as clients,” he said. “We feel like you’re the customer and we’re here to give you a great meal.”
Rapaport said he expects to feed at least 200 people this Thursday, but added there are 400 users on a weekly basis.
“For us, [Thanksgiving is] just another dinner with a lot of hungry people,” he said.
Other People in Need, at Holy House Of Prayer, 1768 St. John’s Place, Weeksville, 718-342-5166
The Weeksville nonprofit will be open Thanksgiving Eve, providing visitors with two portions of baked chicken, soup, veggies and fruits that can be eaten that day and then on Thanksgiving.
“They can have a great meal at home on that day, even when they can’t afford it,” said Dorothy Crawford, a longtime Brooklyn activist who serves as the nonprofit’s executive director.
The kitchen has seen a 10 percent increase in users over the last year, with more coming from the nearby NYCHA buildings and two homeless shelters, Crawford said, adding that OPIN has worked hard to let those needy Brooklynites know they have a place to turn to during the holidays.
“You have to build up some type of rapport with them to let them know we’re there to help them and not hurt them,” Crawford said.
St John’s Bread and Life, 795 Lexington Ave., Bed-Stuy, 718-574-0058
Anthony Butler, the executive director of the Bed-Stuy kitchen, said its Thanksgiving Eve lunch is one of the biggest days of the year.
More than 110 turkeys will be cooked and served with other dishes to about 500 people, many of whom are single men and women.
Butler and his staff said they try to enrich their clients through more than just the food during the luncheon by helping them apply for health insurance, state ID cards and other services for the needy.
Graciela Arus, 62, a frequent user of the kitchen, said she is grateful for the staff’s hard work during the holiday.
“The place is so great and is such a blessing,” she said. “It is there when you need it the most.”