The UNH Blog

Settlement Houses Combat Food Insecurity

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

It's the peak of the holiday season, and while most people are concerned about grabbing the greatest deals, there are thousands of others that are concerned about grabbing their next meal. While the United States just celebrated during a holiday for giving thanks (and gluttony), according to the most recent Food Bank NYC study, over 16% of New York City residents are categorized as food insecure. The statistics for food insecurity among children is even worse, with 22.3% of children uncertain of when they will find their next meal. 

Settlement houses have entrenched themselves in the business of addressing food insecurity in New York City for several years and have some success in providing healthy food options to their communities. The following paragraphs will outline the multiple, innovative ways in which settlement houses are currently combating food insecurity issues.

Grow Your Own

What do you do when your community is unable to access healthy fruits and vegetables? You grow your own of course! That’s what Anita, Frances, and Delia did through our Healthy Communities Through Healthy Food initiative at BronxWorks. After discovering the dire need to reduce the meal gap in their neighborhood, these three ladies created a community garden through which they are able to provide organically grown vegetables to residents for an affordable price. Many of our settlement houses have intentionally recruited older adults to help address the lack of healthy food options through our long-standing alliance with Community Experience Partnership. Other note-worthy exemplars of settlement house run community gardens includes Kingsbridge Heights Community Center’s Garden and Union Settlement’s El Sitio Feliz.


Exercising the Settlement House Spirit

When discussing food insecurities, we must be sure not to exclude one of the most overlooked populations of all- seniors. Hartley House, in collaboration with Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, collects between 50 to 100 pounds of fresh food from DigInn to redistribute to seniors and families throughout the week. They currently serve 75+ seniors, many who don’t have consistent access to, fresh meals on a weekly basis. The Assistant Executive Director had this to say about the effects of their project,  “A lot of our seniors don’t have weekend homecare (or don’t enjoy meals on wheels or their weekend aid’s cooking) so we know for certain that they have plenty of food and are eating over the weekend now.” Hartley House has taken the initiative to address one of the fundamental problems that cause food insecurity by providing their participants access to healthy, nutritious food free of charge.


Healthy Food Access with a Purpose

Located in the Lower East Side, the GrandLo Café is Grand Street’s latest endeavor in conquering food equity, community development, and workforce development. Although created to be a social enterprise, the GrandLo Café is a wonderful illustration of how increasing access to healthy foods can help empower the community to make better health-related decisions. In addition to providing youth with viable hard skills training, including licensing for food handling, the café also provides the neighborhood’s residents with nutritious foods from their diverse menu. The Lower East Side is one of the many areas within NYC that does not have access to affordable produce and groceries. GrandLo Café is actively trying to change that.


Food insecurity is a prevailing problem in New York City. Although the rates are slowly decreasing, access to nutritious meals is still significantly lower throughout New York in comparison to the rest of the country. While there are multiple ways to address this issue, settlement houses have created dynamic and engaging models that continue to inspire other organizations in their attempts to yield food equity for all. 

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