Founded in 1998 by Reverend Melony Samuels as a small pantry inside a church basement, TCAH has since grown to a 2,000-square-foot pantry that offers nutritious foods in a neighborhood that not only lacks access to fresh produce, but where its residents also often struggle with a healthy relationship with food.
Bed-Stuy has the least healthful “food environment” in all of New York City. According to 2018 city data, the neighborhood has more than double the number of premature deaths caused by diabetes than the city-wide average and is among the districts with the highest levels of hypertension.
Food insecurity continues to affect over 2.6 million New Yorkers, including children and seniors. One in seven Brooklynites, 14.7 percent, struggle with food insecurity, which includes roughly 101,000 children, according to stats provided by TCAH.
TCAH’s team works hard to offer local residents access to not “just” food but wholesome nutrition. To ensure access to healthy options, Samuels structured the pantry to be more like a supermarket with a consistent supply of fresh fruits and vegetables, where customers can make selections based on their actual needs.
But the organization is also dedicated to educating the community about healthy food choices and cooking. As a result, the pantry has become a community food education center that includes a “chef’s corner,” where clients are exposed to new foods and can learn from professionals how to prepare them. Three days a week after regular business hours, the pantry transforms into a kitchen and classroom for community cooking workshops.
“Emergency food systems cannot fix poverty,” says Samuels. “But we can help people change the way they eat, and the way they live.”
These cooking workshops lead to healthier eating behaviors, the organization says. Course participants often go on to prepare foods with ingredients that were used in the workshop and subsequentially change their diets to include more whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
Since its launch more than two decades ago, TCAH has become Brooklyn’s largest pantry, serving healthy food to 30,000 people in the broader area every month.
As TCAH continues to grow, it steadily expands its services. Today, the organization runs a senior wellness club, an intergenerational healthy dining initiative for families, a free summer kids program, a mobile pantry to reach other NYC neighborhoods, as well as two gardens across the city where staff and volunteers grow their own produce and offer people of all ages a chance to garden.
To learn more about TCAH’s programs and upcoming events, go here.