Having pioneered the Mobile Pantry system in 1993, The River Fund became the very first organization ever to receive specific recognition of the mobile pantry model under the Federal Hunger Prevention and Nutritional Assistance Program (HPNAP). We are very proud of this accomplishment—one that is benefitting needy communities nationwide. Not only is this model now being emulated across the country, much closer to home, several organizations in New York were able to quickly launch their own mobile operations—and get them funded—after Sandy’s impact and our rapid response to the storm demonstrated the value of having such flexible capabilities.
For more than two decades, The River Fund New York has been feeding needy people from all five boroughs and empowering them to move beyond the lines of poverty. Almost from the beginning, serving this mission has drawn our attention to some of New York’s most desperate populations—most notably in Coney Island, Brooklyn, and Jamaica Center, Queens. Addressing the need in these areas required the launch of Mobile Operations.
In both locations, when we started in the late-1990s, a disproportionately high number of homeless and shelter-resident families were eking out a discouraging existence in the shadows of thriving entertainment attractions and vibrant, expanding commercial growth. Although these areas were benefiting from the general climate of economic prosperity at the time—with substantial investment taking place at almost every level, the poor in both places seem to have been forgotten.
Why We Went Mobile
The rezoning that often accompanies increased economic activity makes the establishment of new food-pantries and soup-kitchens in major commercial and entertainment hubs financially challenging—if not impossible. Serving under-privileged communities with children involves making provisions for Back-to-School Giveaways, Thanksgiving Feasts, X-mas Gift-Giving and other empowering initiatives. Given the economic constraints caused by high real estate prices in such areas, the only practical solution for addressing the complexity of service required to combat poverty is via Mobile Units.
Our Mobile Operations Launch Satellite Sites After Sandy
When Hyperstorm Sandy hit our city, The River Fund New York was the very first Emergency Food Relief Organization to arrive in the flood zones—within 24 hours of landfall. Over the following month, we not only served hundreds of tons of food and other essential supplies to tens of thousands of affected residents, we also partnered with several local groups with better knowledge of their local neighborhoods. With The River Fund as their primary pipeline for groceries, baby-food, diapers, pet food, cleaning supplies and other critical items, these groups became our fixed Satellite Sites in the flood zones—which helped us become far more effective than we would have been had we continued merely as a visiting direct-service distributor.
Since the disaster called “Sandy” simply bumped into and exacerbated an already existing disaster called “Hunger”—and pushed many households into poverty who were teetering on the edge before the storm came, our work in the flood zones never stopped. As those who were better off before the storm found ways (or got help) to begin rebuilding their lives, the major disaster relief agencies left—some as early as 60 days after the storm. The many that were already in poverty before the floods were now in even more desperate conditions than ever. We refused to give up on those neighborhoods. We continued to provision our Satellite Sites for a full year after Sandy—attracting help from wherever we could find it.
Finally, just before the one-year anniversary of the storm’s landfall, one of our efforts bore fruit: Our appeal for a federal Sandy Social Services Block Grant of $534,000 was approved. These funds enable us to extend our service via our Satellite Sites for another year and to expand the scope of our services to include a far greater range of Benefits Access Services to the residents of these struggling neighborhoods.
Going forward, the face of our Mobile Operations is changing: We are not just simply sending pantry-trucks for scheduled distributions in areas where the establishment of fixed food pantries is impractical—as we did when we first started in the 1990s. Now, our Mobile Operations are also actively engaged in finding small, efficient volunteer-based organizations in needy communities, and we partner with them—becoming their pipeline for supplies and support, and mentoring them to become really effective resources for their respective communities in our common battle against hunger and poverty.
We know our poverty-resistance model works, and we believe we can teach “community members who are determined against all odds to care for other community members” how to do what we do, and break the cycle of poverty in their own neighborhoods.
We've Been Mobile Since 1993
We're the very first organization in the the country to receive federal recognition for pioneering the Mobile Pantry Model. READ MORE.
We were the very first emergency food program on the ground behind Hyperstorm Sandy—within 24 hours of landfall. Until now, the need among the poor in the flood zones continues, and so do we. READ MORE.
Managing, i.e., receiving, collecting, transporting, storing and distributing large volumes of "Special Inventory"—like baby food, toilet paper. blankets, adult and children's vitamins, etc.—is also the responsibility of our Mobile Operations team. READ MORE.